Hawk Field Services LLC (HFS), a subsidiary of Petrohawk Energy Corp., on Tuesday was fined $350,000, ordered to pay $150,000 in restitution and placed on probation for three years for damaging endangered species habitat in the Fayetteville Shale in Van Buren County, AR.
In documents filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas Western Division in April, HFS pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor counts of taking an endangered species in the South, Middle and Archey forks of the Little Red River between October 2008 and April 2009. According to the plea agreement, HFS "did not adequately control erosion" after deforesting land during construction of a subsurface natural gas pipeline, which "allowed silt to run downhill to the streams, causing sediment to build up...in waters containing the endangered speckled pocketbook mussel, and caused a take of at least one mussel by harassment" in the streams.
Prosecutors argued that the failure to control erosion constituted a violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which defines harassment as "an intentional or negligent act or omission which creates the likelihood of injury to wildlife by annoying it to such an extent as to significantly disrupt normal behavioral patterns," including breeding, feeding or sheltering.
At the time, HFS operated about 157,000 acres in the Fayetteville Shale. Houston-based Petrohawk late last year sold its natural gas assets in the Fayetteville to XTO Energy Inc., a subsidiary of ExxonMobil Corp. (see Shale Daily, Dec. 27, 2010). Houston-based HFS constructs natural gas and crude oil and condensate gathering systems, and provides gas gathering and treatment services.
The maximum penalty for a corporation for a violation of the ESA includes a $200,000 fine per count, according to the Department of Justice. Judge H. David Young ordered HFS to pay the $150,000 restitution to the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation for use in the Little Red River watershed.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Arkansas Fish and Game Commission.