Montana trucker gets three years of probation for hazmat negligence

By Land Line staff | 8/31/2015

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include plea agreement details revealing the driver admitted to knowing the contents of the tanker to firefighters on the scene.

A Montana man who carelessly and illegally transported hazardous materials has been sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay $2,100 in fines.

According to court documents, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kris McLean said the case provided “general deterrence to the bustling trucking industry in the Bakken oil patch – sending the message that these important safety regulations must be followed.”

A sentencing hearing was held for Steen in U.S. District Court in Montana on Aug. 20.

In May, Land Line reported that Kelly Steen of Baker, Mont., pleaded guilty to transporting hazardous materials without a placard. Steen worked as an owner-operator and was dispatched to the job by Woody’s Trucking.

The bill of lading that accompanied the shipment incorrectly identified the product as “slop oil and water,” which is a non-hazardous substance. The plea agreement indicates that Steen knowingly transported hazardous materials without proper placards.

On Dec. 29, 2012, Steen, driving for Woody’s Trucking, loaded natural gas condensate, or “drip gas,” from a pipeline station that transports products from the Bakken oil fields in Montana and North Dakota. The drip gas was hauled from Watford City, N.D., to Custom Carbon Processing Inc., a slop-oil processing/recycling company based near Wibaux, Mont., the release stated.

While Steen was pumping from the truck’s front tank into the facility, a fire ignited, injuring three employees. The plea agreement states that after the explosion, Steen told firefighters that the material in the tank was drip gas, not slop water. Firefighters were hesitant to fight the fire even after Steen admitted the load was drip gas.

The tanks on the truck burned for eight days until the local fire department could confirm that they held drip gas and not slop oil and water, as indicated incorrectly on the bill of lading. Drip gas is a hazardous material, and the truck was not placarded to indicate it held a flammable liquid.

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