Oil executive pleads not guilty to chargesOil executive Nathan Garber pleaded not guilty Monday at the Stark County Courthouse to a felony charge that he threatened area drinking water with his company’s hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” wastewater disposal practices.
By: Bryan Horwath, The Dickinson Press
Oil executive Nathan Garber pleaded not guilty Monday at the Stark County Courthouse to a felony charge that he threatened area drinking water with his company’s hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” wastewater disposal practices.
Earlier this year, the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office charged Garber — listed in court documents as a Kalispell, Mont., resident — with a Class C felony, arguing that a company led by Garber knowingly attempted to deceive Industrial Commission inspectors.
Following the brief hearing before Stark County Judge H. Patrick Weir, neither Garber nor his attorney, Monte Rogneby of the Bismarck-based Vogel Law Firm, wished to comment to The Press. A Stark County official said a date for a pretrial conference would be set at a later time.
In a case that represents the first of its kind brought against an oil executive in North Dakota, the state is alleging that Garber, president of Executive Drilling LLC at the time of the alleged crime, directed employees of another company to modify their fracking wastewater disposal practices, which are watched closely because of environmental concerns.
Garber directed the injection of salt water used in the fracking process — a drilling practice commonly used by energy companies to retrieve deep shale oil and gas reserves — into a well that was not properly insulated from groundwater near the Lodgepole formation in Stark County, according to court documents.
It is unknown at this time if drinking water was contaminated from the alleged negligence and any findings related to groundwater testing would not be released until a trial, according to the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources. A civil suit related to the case has also been filed in Burleigh County against Halek Operating LLC, which is somehow related to Executive Drilling.
A Class C felony in North Dakota carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $5,000 fine or both.