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Oklahoma couple suing oil and gas company over damages, injuries caused by earthquakes

NORMAN, Okla. - A hearing held Tuesday afternoon means a step forward in an induced-seismicity lawsuit from Lincoln County.

The case was brought by Gary and Sandra Ladra of Prague after three earthquakes in November rattled Prague and, as a result, Sandra was hurt. They are being represented attorney Scott Poynter, who alleges the earthquakes were caused by wastewater disposal wells.

The lawsuit claims New Dominion and other oil and gas company executives placed pressure on government agencies and their employees not to link their operations with Oklahoma's earthquakes. Included in the list of requests made by Poynter was well data from in and around the Prague area and communication between New Dominion and government officials regarding seismicity.

"We are entitled to the source documents at New Dominion. We don't have to rely on what's on public record at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which we didn't want to do for two primary reasons," Poynter said. "One... we think there's some errors in that data base and two, for the courtroom, I have to authenticate my proof through a witness and I want a New Dominion witness to authenticate those documents are authentic."

The defense was quick to argue Tuesday there was no evidence suggesting the companies had ever suppressed any information, also adding New Dominion has provided documents.

Poynter also sought to pursue the deposition of Dr. Austin Holland, Oklahoma's former seismologist who left the state for New Mexico in 2014 and Dr. Todd Halihan, who has spoken publicly about Oklahoma's earthquakes and the industry's disposal of fracking wastewater into the Arbuckle formation.

Judge Lori Walkey ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in regards to Holland, but in terms of Hallihan, it was not a clear victory. His work with Oklahoma State University would be protected, but his work with Governor Mary Fallin's seismicity council may be "fair game", according to Poynter.

"She just wants us to give notice to the governor and allow the Oklahoma government to step in and at least have a say in on whether they want the Halihan deposition to go forward or not," he said.

The case goes to trial in November.