October 18, 2005

EPA probing illegal Alaska dumping–report

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency is conducting a criminal investigation into allegations
that a drilling crew for Pioneer Natural Resources Co.
intentionally dumped contaminated mud into the ice of the
Beaufort Sea offshore Alaska's North Slope in 2003, the Wall
Street Journal reported in its on-line edition on Tuesday.

According to the story, the EPA is investigating
allegations that as many as 2,000 gallons of mud from drilling
that was contaminated with hazardous materials was dumped by a
drilling crew.

The EPA would not say whether an investigation was underway
and its status was unclear, according to the report.

An official at the Alaska Department of Environmental
Conservation said the EPA had told the department that an
investigation is underway, according to the Journal.

A spokeswoman for Dallas-based Pioneer, an independent oil
and gas exploration and production company, was not immediately
available on Tuesday to comment on the report.

According to the story, Pioneer officials said the spill
was an accident and the mud was cleaned up. Pioneer denied any
deliberate wrongdoing and said it was not aware of an EPA
probe, according to the Journal.

The drill rig was operated by Bermuda-based Nabors
Industries Ltd. on behalf of Pioneer, according to the report.

Representatives for Nabors Industries, the EPA and the
Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation were not
immediately available for comment on Tuesday.