August 13th, 2009
02:13 PM ET

Exxon Mobil fined $600,000 for deaths of 85 protected migratory birds

[cnn-photo-caption image="http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/US/12/18/exxon.mobile.fined/art.baytown.refinery.gi.jpg" caption="Exxon Mobil is paying the price for its pollution."]

Terry Frieden
CNN Justice Producer

Oil giant Exxon Mobil Corporation has pled guilty and will pay $600,000 in fines for the deaths of 85 protected migratory birds in the firm's wastewater ponds in five states.

Waterfowl, hawks and owls protected under an international treaty were killed after landing in open uncovered pools where they were coated with or ingested fatal doses of hydrocarbons, federal officials said.

The facilities are in Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

"This is a great win for the environment," Acting Assistant Attorney General John Cruden told reporters in a telephone news conference.

Justice Department lawyers announced Exxon Mobil also agreed in a plea deal filed in federal court in Denver Wednesday to spend millions of dollars to implement a three-year program to cover its natural gas well reserve pits and waste water storage facilities.

A government lawyer said the law requires oil and gas companies to scrub the water of contaminants, remove the ponds, or place an obstruction such as plastic netting over the water to prevent birds from landing.

The government's environmental lawyers credited Exxon with fully cooperating after the issue was brought to the firm's attention.

"They've already spent about 2.5 million dollars and will spend quite a bit more to implement the environmental compliance plan," said trial attorney Robert Anderson.

The birds killed over a five year period were identified by the Fish and Wildlife Service as ducks, grebes, ibis, passerines, shorebirds, owls, martin, 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.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act signed by the U.S. Canada, Mexico, Japan and Russia was enacted in 1918.

Filed under: Environmental issues • Oil
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. alteringeye

    If that incident is in the Philippines... The goverment will just say... "Ha? it's just a bird! "

    August 14, 2009 at 1:22 am |
  2. Erika Monterey, CA

    Wow, I can't believe that a price can even be put on the deaths of the protected birds. Exxon should've been more protective form the beginning, the death of 85 birds shouldn't hvae made them realize that dumping all that junk into the ponds was bad. People can be so careless, it's kind of obvious that we are not the only living things that live in this earth but animals also belong to this earth. I just hope that they actually commit to what they are going to do so that another tragedy like this does not happen again.

    August 13, 2009 at 10:12 pm |
  3. Ron San Bruno, Ca

    If they were safe in the beginning, 85 Bird's would still be alive. Its like if the Bird's survive the shaft, then there is no leak, but if they die, you know somethingbad is down there.Well the price of gas should be going up and then their "clean up " tax deduction should take them over their loss. Well EXXON has slugged us again .

    August 13, 2009 at 8:42 pm |
  4. Annie Kate

    Glad to see that Exxon has to pay a penalty for this and ill have to clean up the mess that kills these birds and take precautions that it doesn't happen again. We need more environmental responsiblity like this to stave off the decline in numbers of much of our wildlife.

    August 13, 2009 at 7:38 pm |
  5. Ron San Bruno, Ca

    If they were safe in the beginning, 85 birds would still be alive. Its like if the birds survive the shaft, then there is no leak, but if they die you know something bad is down there. Well the price of gas should be going up .Clean up Tax deduction well help recover, I'm sure. F--d us again EXXON.

    August 13, 2009 at 6:47 pm |
  6. Ruben Santos Claveria

    Birds must have good lawyers. I'm all for defending wildlife endangered by corporate irresponsibility.

    August 13, 2009 at 6:28 pm |
  7. joe

    Any way the Government can get money, but may I ask this – the tobacco industry and smokers themselves pollute the environment every day (people don't even consider the small lungs their pets have when they poison them with their second hand smoke) and yet that is ok? Is that because Obama smokes, that he is the anti-Bush that he targets oil and not a true source of constant pollution to fine?

    August 13, 2009 at 6:24 pm |
  8. Donna Wood, Lil' Tennessee

    Very good! It's about time. Maybe we've got a future after all. We need more of "corporate" America to take more such stands for our environment and clean up their messes. They are in a position to do so and should. Protecting our wildlife and our environment are very important if we are even to have a future.

    Donna Wood
    Lexington, Tennessee

    August 13, 2009 at 4:33 pm |
  9. Clayton

    $600,000. That's it?? Should have been moAr!!!!!!

    August 13, 2009 at 3:37 pm |
  10. Ikaika

    In Peru, where I spent three miserable years of my life, sea birds die simply from being in the ocean. When I walked the beach during the winter months ((July thru September in South America), I would see dead sea birds about every 50 feet right there on the sand. There was a "Water Treatment Plant" in southern Lima, about a mile north of this beach, I went to check it out. Well, there was no such plant, just raw sewage draining straight into the ocean right there on the beach – in a well hidden area, of course, so most people would not know it's there. Thing is, I reported it to a TV station, who aired the situation on their primetime news, and not one word of outrage, or even concern.

    At least we, in this country, have laws to protect the environment – to some degree. It's shameful to see the pollution, and the lack of respect for the planet by the Peruvian people. I spent 3 years there, and was sickened by the people's blatant disrespect – not only for the environment, but for each other. For the record, I'm anything but a tree hugger or a peacenik, I just hate blatant disregard for life, the environment, and the world in general.

    August 13, 2009 at 3:34 pm |
  11. 1slandgirl

    Seems like such a small amount of money for loss of animal life. Exxon always seems to get away with careless destruction of wildlife.

    August 13, 2009 at 3:17 pm |