Sometimes, lawsuits go to the courts when companies already know about problems they caused. Reducing or repairing damage caused inadvertently benefits the company and community, so no lawsuit is necessary. When that's the case, the company in question can ask to dismiss any lawsuits against it, since it has already begun to take corrective actions.
That is what happened in this case involving four oil and natural gas companies who allegedly caused an increase in seismic activity in Oklahoma. Several entities filed lawsuits pointing out the increase in earthquakes, but the companies already knew about the issues.
A federal district court judge determined that a lawsuit against three producers of natural gas and oil could be dismissed despite an ongoing problem with earthquakes in the state. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission is the go-to for determining how to avoid seismic activity by reducing wastewater, and since that's the case, the judge felt it was appropriate for the OCC to handle the problems brought up in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit, filed by Public Justice in February 2016, stated that the companies were producing wastewater that was causing seismic activity. The lawsuit sought an immediate reduction in production waste from four companies and asked for the companies to reinforce vulnerable structures affected by large earthquakes.
The companies involved in the lawsuit requested to have the claims dismissed, because they argued that the Corporation Commission was already in the process of reducing the amount of wastewater being disposed of in disposal wells. The commission actions have led to a reduction of around 800,000 barrels of wastewater a day from the levels seen in 2014.
Disputes between businesses and the communities they serve aren't always avoidable, but the right information makes a difference. Taking actions to reduce your environmental impact is a good first step in cases like this, and it can help reduce the risk of going to trial.