Lydia Gilbertson | Shale Plays Media
Two years ago Halek Operating ND LLC of Dickinson, North Dakota dumped over 800,000 gallons of oilfield wastewater into a inactive oil well threatening the city’s drinking water supply. The state charged the company with a $1.5 million fine. The company, now dissolved, has not paid the fine and the site remains contaminated.
Various environmentalist groups refer to this situation as an example of the North Dakota state government not regulating the rapid oil development in the western part of the state as intensely as they should be. State officials state that the wastewater site does not pose a threat to Dickinson’s drinking water and that the whole fine may never be collected from Halek.
The company owner has a tumultuous past with environmental violations and in one case North Dakota officials cut a fine for an improper oil spill cleanup from $588,000 to less than ten percent of that.
The Associated Press reports:
North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said it’s doubtful the state will ever collect the entire fine assessed to Halek Operating, but that it is trying. The state has recovered two $20,000 bonds posted by Halek to date, he said.
“The key thing is this guy is not doing business again in North Dakota and that’s a good thing,” Stenehjem said. “We are not going to tolerate this.”
Stenehjem said the state did not pursue charges against Halek at the time because “we just didn’t feel we had enough proof against him personally.”
Background checks are not required for people who apply for drilling permits in North Dakota. Sierra Club spokesman Wayde Schafer says they should be: “A bad player somewhere else is probably going to be a bad player here. Those aren’t the companies we want in North Dakota because the potential for harm is so great.”