Texas oil company pleads guilty in ND duck deathBISMARCK — A Texas oil company will plead guilty and pay a $1,000 fine for killing a duck during drilling operations in western North Dakota, according to an agreement filed Friday.
By: James MacPherson, The Dickinson Press
BISMARCK — A Texas oil company will plead guilty and pay a $1,000 fine for killing a duck during drilling operations in western North Dakota, according to an agreement filed Friday.
Dallas-based Petro-Hunt LLC was charged under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act for the death of a northern shoveler found May 6 in one of the company’s waste pits. Under the third such plea agreement filed in federal court, Petro-Hunt will pay the fine to the nonprofit National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
U.S. Attorney Timothy Purdon said he could not comment on plea deal because it still must be approved by a federal judge. Petro-Hunt did not immediately return telephone calls Friday seeking comment.
Prosecutors charged seven oil companies in August after federal wildlife officials discovered 28 dead birds in uncovered waste pits in May and June. The maximum penalty for each misdemeanor charge under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is six months in prison and a $15,000 fine.
Slawson Exploration Co. Inc., of Wichita, Kan., agreed last month to plead guilty and pay $12,000 for killing a dozen birds in North Dakota’s oil patch. Fidelity Exploration & Production Co., of Denver, also agreed last month to plead guilty and pay a $1,500 fine for the death of a solitary sandpiper found in one of the company’s waste pits.
Four other oil companies charged with killing birds during drilling operations in North Dakota have pleaded not guilty. They are ConocoPhillips Co., of Houston; Newfield Production Co., of Houston; Brigham Oil and Gas LP, of Williston; and Continental Resources Inc., of Enid, Okla.
Court records show that Petro Hunt had been cited by federal wildlife officials in 2007 and twice in 2008 for killing birds in oil waste pits. The company was fined $375 in each of those incidents, records show.
Companies in North Dakota are required to cover the so-called reserve pits with netting if they are open for more than 90 days after drilling operations. The waste pits, which can contain oil, diesel, drilling muds and chemicals, are about the size of a large swimming pool, and birds sometimes mistake them for a good place to land.