Halliburton dodges charges again
Halliburton Energy Services Inc. will not be charged criminally for transporting large quantities of hazardous waste for 12 years and storing it at an Indiana County site in violation of state environmental laws, the state Attorney General's Office said on Thursday.
The decision marks the second time the Attorney General's Office reviewed the matter and declined to pursue criminal charges. It followed an announcement on Tuesday that Halliburton will pay a $1.8 million civil fine to settle citations by the Department of Environmental Protection.
“Our review has indicated no reason to change that decision,” Joe Peters, a spokesman for Attorney General Kathleen Kane said in an email. He declined to explain the decision, saying his office won't discuss “investigative details.”
The DEP first referred the case in 2012 for criminal investigation, but after a five-month review, state prosecutors — working under Kane's predecessor, Linda Kelly — found “insufficient evidence existed to bring criminal charges,” Peters said.
DEP officials declined to comment on the request for an investigation and the decision by prosecutors.So, too, did Kelly and former DEP Secretary Michael Krancer, who were in charge when the case surfaced.
The civil penalty may be a record DEP fine for drilling-related work. From 1999 to 2011, Halliburton mischaracterized hydrochloric acid as residual waste instead of hazardous waste, according to the DEP. It kept no records of how it handled the material.
The company admitted to taking more than 255 shipments of the waste through its Homer City-area site without DEP permission in trucks that were not labeled as carrying hazardous waste or permitted to carry it. It disposed of some of the waste at a plant that didn't have a permit to handle the corrosive acid.
Neither the company nor the DEP has publicly explained how or why the mischaracterization happened. A spokeswoman at the company's Houston headquarters has declined to address those questions. She did not respond to a request on Thursday for an interview about the criminal investigation.
Environmentalists have called for criminal charges to find out whether the company intentionally deceived regulators and to serve as a deterrent. The fine comes out to $150,000 for each year of the violations for a company that had $29.4 billion in revenue in 2013.
“These enforcement actions are supposed to take into account the economic advantage of not complying,” said Myron Arnowitt, Pennsylvania director at Clean Water Action. “There are companies that comply and follow the rules, and they shouldn't be at a disadvantage to the companies that don't.”
Criminal referrals from the DEP are so rare that regional offices can go a full year without one, said Matthew L. Wolford, an Erie environmental lawyer who has worked for the DEP and the attorney general. Pennsylvania environmental law doesn't require prosecutors to show intent, but DEP usually refers cases for criminal review only in extraordinary cases, Wolford said.
“It's only when they see some fact pattern that suggests someone is lying, maybe falsified documents that suggest criminal conduct. Sometimes they'll look at extraordinary environmental harm,” he said. “It's usually because there's something about the case that's not right here.”
Timothy Puko is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- More employers adopt generous leave policies
- Koppers CEO believes struggling company can do better, transform
- How companies may adjust to tax on employee benefits
- Anxiety pervades town built by Volkswagen during emissions-cheating scandal
- Small-scale solar power market draws big utilities
- States extend $1.5B in breaks for data centers
- Job growth falls short; U.S. unemployment unchanged at 5.1%
- Different methods can test emissions
- Day 2 ends in trial of West Virginia ex-coal chief