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Oil exec in Stark County Court for frack water disposal practices

Flanked by his attorneys Monte Rogneby, left, and Mandy Maxon, oil executive Nathan Garber listens to Judge Zane Anderson during an initial appearance at the Stark County Courthouse Wednesday morning.

Oil executive Nathan Garber made an initial appearance at the Stark County Courthouse in Dickinson on Wednesday on charges that he illegally threatened area drinking water with his company's hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," waste disposal practices.

Garber faces a felony charge for allegedly knowingly attempting to deceive Industrial Commission inspectors.

Garber is set to return for a preliminary hearing over the charge, though no date had been set.

The North Dakota Attorney General's Office is charging Garber with a violation of the rules and regulations of the IC in a case that represents the state's first criminal charge against an oil and gas operator.

Stark County Judge Zane Anderson began the approximate 10-minute hearing by inquiring if Garber had read the charge against him. After answering softly that he had, Anderson told Garber that it was "important that you speak up so we can get your answer on the record."

Anderson agreed to release Garber, listed in court records as a resident of Kalispell, Mont., on his own recognizance, as requested by Garber's lead attorney, Mandy Maxon. Garber's council pointed out that he has no criminal history and that he made the initial appearance voluntarily.

The state alleges that Garber, president of Executive Drilling LLC, knowingly violated IC rules by directing employees of another company to modify their fracking waste water dump site practices. The state alleges that Garber's action could have led the drinking water near the Lodgepole formation to be contaminated with salt water.

The Class C felony charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $5,000 fine or both.

The IC has control of the site in question and officials continue to run tests for possible contamination. Any findings related to groundwater testing would not be released until a trial, North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources spokesperson Alison Ritter said.

Garber and his attorneys would not respond to questions on their way out of court.

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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