Earthquakes in the Oilpatch: The Regulatory and Legal Issues Arising out of Oil and Gas Operation Induced Seismicity

49 Pages Posted: 24 Oct 2016 Last revised: 9 Aug 2017

See all articles by Monika Ehrman

Monika Ehrman

SMU Dedman School of Law; UNT Dallas College of Law

Date Written: 2016


There is an incredible increase in earthquake activity in traditionally non-seismically active states, such as Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, and Ohio. In fact, Oklahoma has surpassed California to become the most seismically active state in the United States. Over the last five years, many researchers have pointed to a correlation between seismic activity and certain oil and gas operations, such as wastewater fluid injection and hydraulic fracturing. Oil and gas companies, state regulatory agencies, and local and state governments are unsure of how to proceed given that most of this activity is occurring in states with a strong and economically vested interest in petroleum production. “Frackquake” litigation is on the rise in these states leading courts and parties to puzzle over how to assess and prove causation. There is a complete absence of legal articles published in a law review or law journal that fully addresses oil and gas induced seismicity. This article comprehensively fills that void. It reviews the geologic mechanism, scientific studies, applicable federal environmental legislation and state regulatory framework, and corresponding litigation related to oil and gas induced seismicity. Finally, this article provides the foundation for further induced seismicity literature, in addition to identifying certain strategies and challenges faced by stakeholder groups. It will serve as a valuable reference for the judiciary and scholars alike.

Keywords: earthquake, seismicity, induced seismicity, anthropogenic, oil, gas, natural gas, crude oil

JEL Classification: KOO

Suggested Citation

Ehrman, Monika, Earthquakes in the Oilpatch: The Regulatory and Legal Issues Arising out of Oil and Gas Operation Induced Seismicity (2016). 33 Ga. State U. L. Rev. 609 (2017), Available at SSRN:

Monika Ehrman (Contact Author)

SMU Dedman School of Law ( email )

3315 Daniel Avenue
Dallas, TX 75205
United States


UNT Dallas College of Law ( email )

106 S. Harwood Street
Dallas, TX 75201
United States
(214) 743-1758 (Phone)

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