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Oil company pays $72,000 environmental fine to Mississippi

CENTREVILLE, Miss. — A Canadian oil company is paying an $18,000 environmental fine and giving $54,000 to two school districts to buy buses.

Encana Corp. agreed with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality to pay the $72,000 in penalties. In an order published March 19, the department cited 11 violations of how Encana was supposed to control pollution, keep records and flare natural gas at its Horseshoe Hill 10H-1 well in Wilkinson County.

Based in Calgary, Alberta, Encana has drilled a number of wells in the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale oil region of southwest Mississippi and southeast Louisiana. Horseshoe Hill was one of the first wells the company drilled in Mississippi.

Encana spokesman Doug Hock said the company found in 2013 that a combustor unit at the Horseshoe Hill well wasn’t working properly for about a month, causing gas that was supposed to be controlled to instead be vented. The company then reported the violation to Mississippi authorities, and Hock said Encana is now using an electronic system that tracks equipment and reminds people to maintain and inspect wells.

“This system has been successfully implemented and used in other Encana operating areas and rectified the root cause of the non-compliance issue,” Hock wrote in an email.

In addition to the $18,000 that Encana will pay the state, it agreed to pay $36,000 to the Amite County school district and $18,000 to the Wilkinson County school district. Amite County will use the money to buy two buses with lower diesel emissions, while Wilkinson County will buy one.

Colin Cowie, Encana’s manager of southern operations, signed the order March 9, waiving hearing rights and agreeing to pay the fine.

It’s the second major environmental fine assessed by Mississippi against an oil company in the state’s portion of the Tuscaloosa shale. Earlier this year, Halcón Resources agreed to pay a $60,000 fine for withdrawing water from a Wilkinson County stream without a permit. Environmental regulators said Texas-based Halcón withdrew about 7.5 million gallons over a nine-day period from a site near the confluence of the Buffalo and the Little Buffalo River northwest of Centreville.

Drilling has nearly come to a stop in the region in recent months because of decreased oil prices.

In related news, Mississippi River traffic limits lifted.

This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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