12 years of violations: Halliburton gets off cheap for bad Pa. behavior

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Halliburton Energy Services, a huge multinational corporation serving gas and oil companies, may have a fine reputation in the industry, but it isn’t regarded so favorably in the wider world — and not just because unpopular former Vice President Dick Cheney was its CEO. To see why, just look at the news from Pennsylvania.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has fined Halliburton $1.8 million for 255 violations between 1999 and 2011 related to transporting, processing and disposing of hydrochloric acid without classifying it as a hazardous substance. It was one of the largest penalties levied against such a company in state history.

Yet it was a slap on the wrist, not only because Halliburton counts its business in the billions of dollars but also because of the shocking nature of the offense. DEP spokesman John Poister said Halliburton’s facility in Homer City, Indiana County, was used to store unused hydrochloric acid hauled from gas well sites. The company would treat the acid with lime, but some was not neutralized and was sent to facilities not allowed to accept it.

Halliburton was able to escape the attention of regulators because it maintained it was exempt from provisions of the state’s Solid Waste Management Act. A federal exemption exists for oil and gas companies that handle less than 220 pounds of waste per month. That turned out to be nonsense.

But DEP got wise. An inspector who visited the Homer City site in 2010 raised questions about the amount of waste being processed. In 2011, DEP investigated and determined that Halliburton was processing at least 2,200 pounds monthly, or 10 times the limit of exempt facilities.

Halliburton issued a statement Tuesday, saying it “joins with [DEP] in observing that there is no evidence that these past practices resulted in harm to the public or the environment.”

How would anybody know? All the public knows is that Halliburton must pay chump change for its behavior and Pennsylvanians are the chumps. No wonder people believe the worst of such heavy-footed corporations.

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