Last week, the Sierra Club and Public Justice finally got around to suing three local energy companies for their role in making Oklahoma the new Earthquake Capital of the United States. Since we like to profit from earthquake-related page views and web hits like everyone else, and still enjoy using photographs of Oklahoma pageant contestants prancing around in bikinis to go with our earthquake coverage (Hello Olivia Jordan), we shared the news with you like we usually do.
I ended the post on this note:
You can view the entire lawsuit here. I’d suggest reading it. That way you’ll be prepared for The Oklahoman’s upcoming editorial that will dismiss the lawsuit as nothing but a desperate attempt by liberal environmentalists to sabotage the oil industry.
Well, I guess you can say I called it. The day after I wrote those words on this obscure weblog, this headline literally appeared on the pages of our state’s largest newspaper:
Geeze, sometimes I think The Oklahoman makes our job too easy. I know that wasn’t a bold prediction or anything, but couldn’t they have at least waited a week or two before the hit piece on the Sierra Club? I kind of feel the same way I do when a Mexican restaurant brings out my meal in five minutes. I appreciate the speed and effort, but that’s a little too fast. I want to get full on the chips, tortillas and other stuff first. Seriously, did they freeze this editorial a few months ago and just put in the microwave? That would probably explain why it’s so bad.
Let’s check out the piece. Just like the paper’s last editorial on this topic, it’s misleading, slanted and was probably written by Larry Nichols and his minions at Devon Energy:
FOLLOWING through on its November warning, the Sierra Club filed a federal lawsuit this week going after three Oklahoma energy companies for their roles in the state’s increased earthquake activity. The quakes aren’t the only shaking going on.
The Sierra Club is looking for a payday with its move against Chesapeake Energy Corp., Devon Energy Corp. and New Dominion LLC. Recall that SandRidge was on the environmental group’s original list of targets. Since then, SandRidge has experienced terrific cash flow challenges. Color us skeptical of the Sierra Club’s explanation that hiccups in getting notice to the company is the reason it was omitted from this lawsuit.
First of all, can we as a society get rid of the whole “color me” cliché. I know I’ve probably used it in the past, but it really doesn’t make any sense. “Color us skeptical?” What the hell does that even mean?
Second, I think it’s smart that the Sierra Club didn’t sue SandRidge. Why the hell would you waste your time suing a company that’s recently been delisted and appears to be in the verge of bankruptcy? Even Aaron Tuttle’s attorney would advise against that.
The Sierra Club wants the court to order that Chesapeake, Devon and New Dominion “reduce immediately and substantially” the amounts of wastewater they’re disposing in underground wells. “At a minimum, the current rates of injection, particularly into the Arbuckle Formation … must be substantially reduced in order to abate the currently acceptable earthquake risks,” the plaintiffs argue.
The club also wants an order requiring the companies to reinforce “vulnerable structures that current forecasts indicate could be impacted by large magnitude earthquakes during the interim period.”
And, the club wants the court to establish an “independent monitoring and production center” to determine how much wastewater can be injected into wells. This is because, according to the lawsuit, “no government body is currently taking a holistic or proactive view of waste injection and its potential to induce earthquakes.”
So, uhm, all those things are bad? Color me smart, but I think reducing wastewater injections and forming an independent monitoring center seem like good ideas. Also, if we have structures that are vulnerable to earthquakes, somebody should probably pay to fix them. Color me logical, but maybe we should ask the people who caused the earthquakes to do it.
In other words, the Sierra Club has no faith in the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, the Oklahoma Geological Survey or any of the many other agencies that have indeed been working hard on this issue for the past two years. The same day the lawsuit was filed, the Corporation Commission announced its latest move to reduce wastewater volumes in 245 disposal wells, encompassing a 5,200-square-mile area in western Oklahoma…
Yeah, I wonder why the Sierra Club would have “no faith” in the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, the Oklahoma Geological Survey, or any of the many other agencies that are under the control of the energy industry. What would ever bring that on? I mean, it’s not like these earthquakes started in 2011 and increased exponentially each year while our state’s leaders sat on their fat asses and did nothing. Our state, along with the Corporation Commission and OGS, was quick to respond to the crisis and should be applauded over coffee with David Boren and Harold Hamm.
The Sierra Club brought its lawsuit under a 1976 federal law that allows citizen lawsuits over hazardous waste. The plaintiffs’ threshold to clear under that law is lower than in state lawsuits that have been filed against energy companies over earthquake damage.
No surprise, the head of the Sierra Club’s Oklahoma chapter resorted to demonization in defending the lawsuit. “It is our hope that these three companies will recognize the immediate danger they are putting communities in, and put our health and our environment ahead of profits,” he said.
LOL. Color me hypocritical, but how dare the Sierra Club resort to the same demonization tactics that the Oklahoman editorial board uses when criticizing the motivations of non-profit environmental groups.
Those profits have tanked in the past 18 months as the price of oil has fallen. Devon is laying off about one-fifth of its workforce, and Chesapeake has gone through large cutbacks of its own. The Sierra Club longs for the day when there are zero oil and gas companies — but not before trying to cash in first.
It looks like The Oklahoman finally got it right. The non-profit Sierra Club filed this lawsuit because they’re greedy bastards. Money is their only motivation. They don’t care about the earthquakes. They’re just trying to cash in while they can. Meanwhile, the civic-minded oil companies – who, by the way, have made billions upon billions of dollars plundering our state’s natural resources, and in the process, stirring long dormant earthquake fault lines that rattle our homes and nerves – don’t care about money. They simple want what’s best for Oklahomans.