LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- A Houston-based natural gas company has been sentenced to pay a fine after taking endangered mussels.
Petrohawk Energy Corporation was sentenced to pay a fine of $350,000 and to donate $250,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to be used in restoration projects in the Little Red River watershed.
Hawk Field Services, LLC, pleaded guilty on April 8, 2011, to three counts of violating the Endangered Species Act. The Endangered Species Act is a federal law that makes it illegal to take endangered species, by harassing the wildlife to such an extent that it significantly disrupts normal behavioral patterns such as breeding, feeding, or sheltering.
"In order for us to continue to enjoy the Natural State for generations to come, it is incumbent upon those doing business in our state to protect our natural resources and wildlife, stated Thyer. "Even the speckled pocket book mussel plays an important role in the health of the Little Red River. This sentence should serve notice to all companies who would threaten our natural resources that we will prosecute those who carelessly conduct business to the detriment of our state's resources."
"Threats to the speckled pocket book mussel include loss and degradation of stream and river habitat due to impoundment, channelization, chemical contaminants, mining and sedimentation. Freshwater mussels require clean water; their decline often signals a decline in the water quality of the streams and rivers they inhabit. This sentencing affirms our commitment to investigate violations of the federal wildlife laws intended to protect our Nation's most imperiled species and promote proper stewardship of our natural resources," said Santiago.
According to the Information filed in the case and the plea agreement accepted by the court today, Hawk Field Services, LLC, was engaged in gathering, conditioning, and treating activities related to the development of natural gas properties in the Fayetteville Shale in north central Arkansas.
The Fayetteville Shale is an unconventional gas reservoir located in the Arkoma Basin in Arkansas, at a depth of approximately 1,500 to 6,500 feet and ranging in thickness from 100 to 500 feet. The South, Middle, and Archey Forks of the Little Red River, and their tributaries, are located in steep, mountainous terrain within the Fayetteville Shale region, and contain the endangered speckled pocket book mussel.
Hawk Field Services, LLC, acquired and developed land in the Fayetteville Shale, on which wells and pipelines were installed. The pipelines are subsurface and were constructed by Hawk Field Services, LLC, across the streams by either trenching or using a technique known as directional drilling. In either case, Hawk Field Services, LLC, cleared the land on both sides of a stream, exposing bare ground until the pipeline was installed and the land remediated, by reseeding and re-foresting. Hawk Field Services, LLC, admitted in the plea agreement that during construction of the pipelines in the Little Red River watershed from on or about October 1, 2008, to April 17, 2009, it did not adequately control erosion.
This lack of erosion control allowed silt to run downhill to the streams, causing sediment to build up at the stream crossing and downstream. This erosion and sedimentation occurred in waters containing the endangered speckled pocketbook mussel, in the South Fork, Little Fork, and Archey Fork of the Little Red River.
(Source: United States Attorney's Office)