Finding Fault: Induced Earthquake Liability and Regulation


By: Emery Gullickson Richards

1st April, 2015

Man-made earthquakes have followed the hydraulic fracturing boom into the twenty-first century. In recent years, operators have hydraulically fractured more than 100,000 wells in the U.S. In tandem with the current increase in unconventional oil and gas production in the U.S., the number of earthquakes in the central and eastern parts of the country has increased dramatically: more than 300 earthquakes above a magnitude 3.0 occurred in the three years from 2010 to 2012, compared with an average rate of 21 events per year from 1967 to 2000.

This Report will survey ways in which state regulation and various doctrines of common law liability23 address the risk of induced seismicity in five jurisdictions: Arkansas, Colorado, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas. Ohio’s regime merits special emphasis for having both the most robust regulatory scheme for preventing induced earthquakes and a well-developed and nuanced body of law regarding strict liability for concussion damage. In addition, this Report will discuss possible trends regarding the interplay of regulation and liability, and their effects. This Report does not seek to make conclusions about which regulatory framework or liability doctrine is best, but merely to point out the advantages and disadvantages of their various features.

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