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Trucking company faces $950,000 in fines in illegal dumping case

BISMARCK – A North Dakota Industrial Commission case against Black Hills Trucking seeking fines for illegal dumping allegations is heading to an administrative law judge.

The Industrial Commission filed a complaint last year against Black Hills Trucking, part of True Companies of Wyoming, for charges that the company improperly disposed of produced water, a byproduct of oil production.

Surveillance equipment recorded the company’s trucks dumping produced water on a Williams County gravel road in February and March of 2014, according to the complaint. A Department of Mineral Resources inspector also observed one incident, which led to a criminal charge against the driver.

The Industrial Commission proposed fines of $950,000 plus $1,526 in fees for the violations.

In a written response to the Industrial Commission, Black Hills Trucking denied the illegal dumping allegations. The company admitted that in one instance, a former employee improperly opened the drain valves on a truck and trailer that may have resulted in the discharge of a small volume of produced water on a gravel road.

Black Hills Trucking argued in its response that the complaint falls outside of the Industrial Commission’s jurisdiction and the fines are disproportionate to the gravity of the offense.

Because Black Hills Trucking did not agree to terms of a settlement with the Industrial Commission, the matter will be decided by an administrative law judge, said Department of Mineral Resources spokeswoman Alison Ritter. A hearing has not been set.

The North Dakota Department of Health also took enforcement action against Black Hills Trucking for violations including operating without a waste transporter’s permit. The company was ordered to pay $200,000 in fines with $259,000 suspended if it followed the terms of the agreement.

Leo Slemin, the driver who was charged in criminal court, pleaded guilty last year to violating the Industrial Commission’s rules. He was fined $3,000 and received a suspended jail sentence.

A coalition of labor unions who oppose a pipeline proposed by Bridger Pipeline LLC, also part of True Companies, points to the Black Hills Trucking violations in its criticism of the company’s track record.