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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

The plaintiffs, led by Robbie and Gwenna Hill of Quitman, argue that fluid that's injected at disposal sites is migrating beneath their property as it fills cavities in porous rock deep below the surface.

"As a result of their activities, the (companies) are unjustly enriched by trespassing upon the lands of the plaintiffs and others, and were that not enough, the defendants are also receiving income for disposing of the oilfield waste on land owned by others," the lawsuit states. The term "oilfield waste" covers fluids involved in natural gas drilling.

The suit was filed by attorneys Timothy R. Holton and John R. Holton of Memphis, Tenn., and Michael P. McGartland of Fort Worth, Texas.

The suit says some of the plaintiffs have signed mineral leases with the companies but the court action claims those contracts do not include permission to dispose of excess drilling fluids at the sites.

Southwestern Energy's response to the original action said the land owners "plead no facts connecting Southwestern's actions with their supposed damages, which also lack any specificity. Further, plaintiffs willfully ignore the publicly recorded mineral leases that expressly allow injection of fracking fluids below their lands."

Southwestern attached copies of leases that note that fluids will be injected at the sites.