Posted: Dec 13, 2012 10:28 AM by KBZK Media Center
BILLINGS - An oil and gas company headquartered in Denver has been fined $22,500 for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
SM Energy Company pleaded guilty in federal court in Billings this week to three misdemeanor violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in connection the deaths of birds at the company's drilling facilities in Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska.
Under the plea agreement, U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn S. Ostby placed the company on probation for one year and ordered it to pay $22,500 in fines, $7,500 toward improvement of migratory bird habitat and to continue implementing a $300,000 comprehensive remediation program intended to prevent future bird deaths at the company's drilling and storage sites, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.
SM Energy Company operates oil and gas mining operations in several western states, including Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska. The company uses "reserve pits" to store petroleum and chemical substances during the drilling operations. Birds land in the pits and ingest or become coated in the fluids, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. The pits can be made safe for birds by covering them with netting to prevent the birds from coming into contact with the toxic fluids, the news release states.
"These charges arose after a multi-year pattern of bird deaths at company sites, notification by the Fish and Wildlife Service, and failure of the defendant company's subsidiary to take reasonable measures to make the hazardous sites bird-safe," Michael W. Cotter, United States Attorney for the District of Montana, said. "This case illustrates our commitment to encouraging the use of environmental "best practices" by industry, and to enforce the law in cases where lack of compliance results in harm to a protected public resource."
The case was investigated by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service, and prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Environmental Crimes Section of DOJ's Environment and Natural Resources Division.