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Supreme Court affirms $950,000 fine for SD company that illegally dumped oilfield waste along ND road

BISMARCK—The North Dakota Supreme Court has affirmed a $950,000 fine for a trucking company that illegally dumped oilfield waste onto a northwest North Dakota road in 2014.

Black Hills Trucking challenged the fine from the North Dakota Industrial Commission, arguing it already paid a $200,000 fine to the North Dakota Department of Health for the same violations.

The company did not dispute that a truck driver intentionally released produced water, a waste byproduct of oil production, onto a Williams County gravel road, but argued the Industrial Commission overstepped its jurisdiction.

In an opinion published Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Industrial Commission, affirming the decision of a Northwest Judicial District Court judge.

A majority of justices concluded the Industrial Commission has the authority to regulate the disposal of saltwater and oilfield waste, including while the wastes are being trucked to a disposal site.

Justice Daniel Crothers dissented, concluding that the Industrial Commission has "impermissibly interfered" with the health department's jurisdiction over produced water that is moved away from a well site or other oilfield facility.

Crothers noted in his opinion that the regulators did not order cleanup work at the sites.

Surveillance equipment recorded a truck owned by Black Hills Trucking dumping produced water on a road in February and March of 2014. One incident was observed by a Department of Mineral Resources inspector and led to a criminal conviction against the driver and a $3,000 fine.

Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms said the agency is pleased with the Supreme Court's opinion.

"The outcome of this case was vital in maintaining the jurisdiction of the commission on complaint cases," Helms said in a statement.

Black Hills Trucking, part of Wyoming-based True Companies, has 14 days to file a petition for rehearing with the court. Otherwise, the opinion is considered final. John Morrison, an attorney who represented Black Hills Trucking, did not respond to an email requesting comment Thursday.