In a plea bargain made this week, energy giant Exxon Mobil has agreed to pay $600,000 (US) in fines for the deaths of 85 protected migratory birds in the company’s wastewater ponds in five states.
The company has also agreed to spend millions of dollars to cover its natural gas well reserve pits and wastewater storage facilities, to avoid killing more birds in the future.
Waterfowl, hawks and owls protected under an international treaty were killed after landing in uncovered pools, where they were coated with or ingested fatal doses of hydrocarbons, federal officials said.
The birds killed over a five-year period were identified by the U.S
Fish and Wildlife Service as ducks, grebes, ibis, passerines, shore birds, owls, martins and a hawk. None is listed as an endangered species.
The Justice Department said $400,000 of the fines will go to a wetlands conservation fund, and $200,000 in community service
payments will be directed to waterfowl rehabilitation and preservation organizations.
Exxon Mobil was fined for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the US’s domestic enactment of an international migratory bird protection treaty signed with Canada and Mexico (and later Russia and Japan). In Canada, we adhere to the treaty with our own piece of legislation, the Migratory Bird Convention Act (MBCA).
It was enforcement of the MBCA, you might recall, that led the government to prosecute Syncrude for the death of 500 waterfowl in April 2008, and that gave Environment Canada the legal power to charge and fine J. D. Irving Inc. for destroying 10 to 20 Great Blue Heron nests that same year.
Despite these rather high profile cases, however, the Migratory Bird Convention Act is still inconsistently applied.