by Max Brantley
The Sunday Democrat-Gazette has an article recapping the gas lobby's defeat of even modest legislation aimed at providing some assurance of decent environmental regulation of the drilling, waste disposal and other activities in the Fayetteville shale zone. The point of the article seemed to be the lobby hardly needed its lobbyists. Arkansas legislators are so reflexive in support of business that they needed little encouragement to oppose environmental protection.
Thanks to elwood for news from the Justice Department of a guilty plea Friday by a shale zone pipeline builder that violated the endangered species act.
Hawk Field Services 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, across the streams by either trenching or using a technique known as directional drilling. In either case, Hawk Field Services cleared the land on both sides of a stream, exposing bare ground until the pipeline was installed and the land remediated, by re-seeding and re-foresting. In today’s plea agreement, Hawk Field Services admitted that it did not adequately control erosion during construction, from October 2008 to April 2009, of the pipelines in the Little Red River watershed. 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, and caused a take of at least one mussel by harassment, in the South Fork, Little Fork and Archey Fork of the Little Red River.
Hawk is going to pay a $350,000 fine and $150,000 more to restore areas it damaged.
The David Sanderses and Jason Raperts of the world, among the noisiest shale cheerleaders in the legislature, seem the sorts who would deride concern for the lowly speckled pocketbook mussel. But read closely, gentlemen. Sedimentation of the Little Red River? Other creatures live there, perhaps not endangered, but prized all the same. This is just one more example of why we need a more comprehensive state oversight of drilling activities. We'll be checking a report next week of flagrant contempt for waste disposal and injection well operation rules. The good news is that citizen activists are on the job, with video cameras, even if the state and the frackers' protectors in the legislature are not.