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Surface Pollution Lawsuits: Critical Testimony of Geoscientists

D. L. Brooks
Hinkle, Hensley, Shanor & Martin, L.L.P., Roswell, New Mexico

The recent dramatic increase in the number of environmental lawsuits filed by ranchers against oil producers, particularly in the Permian Basin of New Mexico and West Texas, underscores the importance with which oil producers must understand the geology and hydrology in the vicinity of the producing well. Scientific study and testimony about the geology and hydrology will be critical to the outcome of settlement negotiations and litigation, as indicated by Anthony et al. v. Chevron, a 1999 case from the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas. Oil industry defendants must be prepared to rebut plaintiffs’ expert testimony regarding the source, timing and scope of pollution, as well as the expected cost of remediation, with scientific evidence of their own on the key issues of causation and damages. The testifying geoscientist should be prepared to explain to the court a well-formulated and repeatable scientific theory for reaching his conclusions.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90905©2001 AAPG Southwest Section Meeting, Dallas, Texas