Oil Firm Fined for Violations in ND

Thursday, July 30, 2015 @ 05:07 PM gHale

An Idaho company is facing a $900,000 fine for a dozen violations of oil regulations, including two saltwater spills discovered in November and January they have not cleaned up yet, officials said.

Alturas Energy LLC ended up served with the complaint by the North Dakota Industrial Commission on April 2 and hasn’t responded, allowing the state to issue a default order.

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The state will now ask a district court judge to enforce the order through a judgment against the company. If granted, the state can move to garnish the company’s income, confiscate equipment, saleable oil and wells and seek reimbursement for the cost of plugging abandoned wells, Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms said.

“I think it’s important, especially with the lower oil price paradigm that we’re in, that we send a message to companies that we mean business,” he said.

Alturas purchased eight wells and a treating plant in 2010 in McKenzie County in the Fairview area near the North Dakota/Montana border, and since then, the state has struggled to get the company to comply with regulations, Helms said.

The complaint said the company failed to plug an abandoned well and remove two unused 400-barrel tanks that have laid on their side since June 2012.

The two saltwater spills observed at separate wells Nov. 5 and Jan. 28 ended up contained by dikes on site, but the saltwater has evaporated, contaminating aggregate and the clay liner, Helms said. He said there’s potential for further contamination if a heavy rain were to fall.

Helms said the state will wait for the court order to begin cleaning up the site, but added it will occur before the fall freeze-up.

The violations, which are for six wells in McKenzie County, also include failing to file a spill report, failing to report accurate sworn statements showing the amount of injection for two saltwater disposal wells, failing to have sufficient dikes around locations and failing to file a well bond, according to the complaint.

A phone listing for Alturas Energy in Hailey, ID, was no longer in service. A message ended up left for a Sidney, MT, office of Alturas Energy.

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