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Property owners sue over gas drilling waste wells

Associated Press Modified: October 5, 2012 at 4:57 pm •  Published: October 5, 2012

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A group of residents in Independence and Faulkner counties are suing three natural gas drilling companies, claiming that waste fluids are improperly being pumped underneath land the companies don't own or lease.

An amended version of the lawsuit was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Little Rock, adding several plaintiffs and two of the drilling companies. The lawsuit seeks class status for affected landowners living above the gas-rich Fayetteville Shale formation in central Arkansas.

Houston-based Southwestern Energy Co. was the only company named in the original version of the suit, which was filed in August. Southwestern Energy filed a motion to dismiss the original suit, arguing the plaintiffs didn't show they had a claim.

Added to the amended version were Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy Corp. and Fort Worth, Texas-based XTO Energy Inc.

A Chesapeake spokesman said the company would not comment, and XTO Energy didn't immediately return a phone message seeking a response to the lawsuit. Southwestern responded to a request for comment but did not immediately provide one.

The lawsuit notes that the companies charge against lease holders' royalties for disposal of the drilling fluids, which the plaintiffs claim contain chemicals that include formaldehyde, methanol and others.

To bring natural gas to the surface, drillers inject fluids under high pressure to fracture underground rock, a process sometimes called fracking. A portion of that fluid returns to the surface and the companies have to collect and dispose of it. It's that drilling fluid that is at the center of the lawsuit.

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