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MYTON, Duchesne County — Utah's largest producer of crude oil has agreed to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act by paying a fine and restoring wetlands in Duchesne and Uintah counties.
Newfield Production Co., a subsidiary of Newfield Exploration Co., reported the potential violations of the Clean Water Act after conducting a self-audit in 2012 of 45 well sites in northeastern Utah, company spokeswoman Cindy Hassler said.
"The proactive steps we initiated to voluntarily self-report potential Clean Water Act violations confirm our commitment to corporate responsibility in the communities where we live and work," Hassler said. "It further confirms our dedication to protecting our water resources in Utah and the Uintah Basin.”
Nineteen of the 45 sites — including four sites previously owned and operated by Harvest Holdings Inc. — showed evidence of "filling or dredging of wetlands, rivers, streams and other waters of the United States without a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers," the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in a statement.
Activities at these sites included the construction of well pads, access roads and pipelines that resulted in the discharge of dredged or fill materials into wetlands and drainages, federal regulators said. Newfield's self-audit found that more than 17 acres of wetlands and streams at 19 sites in drainages connected to the Duchesne River were impacted.
The proactive steps we initiated to voluntarily self-report potential Clean Water Act violations confirm our commitment to corporate responsibility in the communities where we live and work. It further confirms our dedication to protecting our water resources in Utah and the Uintah Basin.
–Cindy Hassler, Newfield Production Co. spokeswoman
“Wetlands are critical to maintaining clean water and healthy watersheds and provide valuable public health and environmental benefits,” said Art Palomares, director of the EPA’s water enforcement program in Denver.
“Newfield’s efforts to investigate, self-report and remedy Clean Water Act violations at its production sites offer an example of corporate accountability and attention to environmental compliance," Palomares said. "(The EPA) appreciates the company’s actions to restore and create wetlands at its production sites and its commitment to future compliance to protect Utah’s water resources."
Under the terms of the settlement agreement with the EPA, Newfield will restore about 13 acres of wetlands and streams and will perform mitigation work for the remaining damage by creating more than 10 acres of new wetlands, Palomares said. Newfield has also agreed to pay a $175,000 fine.
In October 2013, Newfield agreed to pay a $600,000 fine to the EPA for operating 442 injection wells within the boundaries of the Ute Indian Tribe's reservation during an 18-month period without adequate proof that it could pay to safely close and abandon those wells, which is a violation of federal regulations.