By Barclay Richard Nicholson and Stephen C. Dillard
Over the last four years, with the continued development and production of natural gas from shale formations throughout the country, lawsuits involving hydraulic fracturing activities have increased. Many of these lawsuits filed by landowners in Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and West Virginia against oil and gas operating and drilling companies, allege contamination of groundwater or sources of drinking water. These landowners either leased oil and gas rights to the defendants, or reside in close proximity to where hydraulic fracturing operations have occurred.
This updated White Paper analyzes the current status of shale and hydraulic fracturing litigation and discusses the claims of water contamination as well as lawsuits alleging that hydraulic fracturing is implicated in earthquakes, environmental issues, regulatory enforcement, municipal bans, government regulations, and oil and gas lease disputes. Many of the cases are in the discovery stages of litigation, while others have been dismissed or settled. The use of "Lone Pine" orders has also become an effective defense strategy in some of these cases. As of January 1, 2013, the date of the updated White Paper, the authors had not located any judgment against a well operator, drilling contractor, or service company for contamination of groundwater resulting from hydraulic fracturing.
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