[TN-Bird] Exxon-Mobil Pleads Guilty to Migratory Bird Act Violations

  • From: "David Aborn" <David-Aborn@xxxxxxx>
  • To: "TN-Bird" <tn-bird@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 14 Aug 2009 12:22:48 -0400


I thought you might find this ruling interesting

David Aborn
Chattanooga, TN
WASHINGTON - Exxon-Mobil Corporation, the world's largest publicly traded
oil and gas company, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Denver to
violating the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) in five states during
the past five years, the Justice Department announced.

The company has agreed to pay fines and community service payments totaling
$600,000 and will implement an environmental compliance plan over the next
three years aimed at preventing bird deaths on the company's facilities in
the affected states. According to papers filed in court, the company has
already spent over $2.5 million to begin implementation of the plan.

The charges stem from the deaths of approximately 85 protected birds,
including waterfowl, hawks and owls, at Exxon-Mobil drilling and production
facilities in Colorado, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas between 2004 and
2009. According to the charges and other information presented in court,
most of the birds died after exposure to hydrocarbons in uncovered natural
gas well reserve pits and waste water storage facilities at Exxon-Mobil
sites in Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

The company has entered into a plea agreement with the government, calling
for guilty pleas to the five charges and a sentence of $400,000 in fines and
$200,000 in community service payments. The fines will be deposited into the
federally-administered North American Wetlands Conservation Fund. The
community service payments will be made to a non-profit waterfowl
rehabilitation foundation in Colorado and the congressionally-chartered
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, designated for waterfowl preservation
work in each of the affected states. During a three-year probationary
period, Exxon-Mobil must also implement an "environmental compliance plan"
designed to keep birds from coming into contact with oily waters at its
facilities in the five affected states.

"The environmental compliance plan that Exxon-Mobil has agreed to in this
multi-district plea agreement is an important step in protecting migratory
birds in these five states," said John C. Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney
General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources

"We are all responsible for protecting our wildlife, even the largest of
corporations," said Colorado U.S. Attorney David M. Gaouette. "An important
part of this case is the implementation of an environmental compliance plan
that will help prevent future migratory bird deaths."

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act, enacted in 1918, implements this country's
commitments under avian protection treaties with Great Britain (for Canada),
Mexico, Japan and Russia. The Act creates a misdemeanor criminal sanction
for the unpermitted taking of listed species by any means and in any manner
regardless of fault. The maximum penalty for a corporate taking under the
MBTA is $15,000, or twice the gross gain or loss resulting from the offense,
and five years probation. The birds killed in the five cases include ducks,
grebes, ibis, passerines, shorebirds, owls, martin and a hawk. None of these
species is listed as endangered or threatened under federal law.

Migratory birds often land on open wastewater ponds at oil and gas
facilities and become coated with, or ingest, fatal amounts of hydrocarbons
discharged into the water during drilling or production operations. Such
killings can be prevented by scrubbing the water of contaminants before
discharge, removing the ponds, placing an obstruction such as netting or
plastic "bird balls" over the water to prevent contact, or installing
commercially-manufactured electronic hazing devices which detect incoming
flights of migratory birds and deploy noise and lights to scare them away
from the area. Exxon-Mobil's environmental compliance plan will employ these
techniques, tailored to each facility, to prevent future mortality.

The cases were investigated by Special Agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service and are being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Robert S. Anderson
of the Justice Department's Environmental Crimes Section and Assistant U.S.
Attorney Michael Carey of the District of Colorado.

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