Federal Charges Filed After Youngstown Companies Dumped Fracking Waste: UPDATE

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[UPDATE, Feb. 15:] Ben Lupo, owner of D&L Energy and Hardrock Excavating was charged yesterday with one count of violating the U.S. EPA Clean Water Act. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says civil charges from the state are likely to follow. State and federal investigators discovered oil field waste and brine (fracking waste water), benzene, toluene and other pollutants in the Mahoning River Watershed.

Lupo's lone charge as of now carries a possible sentence of up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Via the Youngstown Vindicator:

“This charge should serve as a warning to anyone that places their personal interests ahead of the public’s safety,” said Jim Zehringer, Ohio Department of Natural Resources director.

“ODNR will continue to aggressively pursue and seek prosecution of any business or individual that blatantly disregards the laws we have in place to protect Ohio’s communities and natural resources."

[Feb. 14:]

U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine will be flanked by members of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. EPA this afternoon to announce federal charges against the Youngstown companies accused of dumping fracking-related waste water into the Mahoning River:

Ben Lupo, the CEO of [Youngstown-based D&L Energy Group and Hardrock Excavating Company], admitted to authorizing the disposal of 20,000 gallons of fracking wastewater, including oil, brine, and mud, into a storm sewer that empties into the Mahoning River Watershed.

The ODNR, which found out about the incident through an “anonymous tip” from an insider, arrived on the scene and caught two brine-hauling trucks in situ; though officials had received several tips about suspected illegal dumping throughout January, they deemed initial notices “not actionable."

The actions are violations of the U.S. EPA's Clean Water Act.

A news conference will be held at 1 p.m. at B&O Station in Youngstown.

[UPDATE, 12:55 p.m. Feb. 14: Lupo was released from custody this morning on a $50,000 unsecured bond, the Youngstown Vindicator reports. He had surrendered himself after arrest warrants were issued.]

This latest notch in the regional fracking belt comes just a shade over a week after Crain's Cleveland Business, WVIZ and WCPN hosted the Ohio Shale Summit. With hearty pats on the backs of industry leaders, the conversation revolved around how to "get it right"... As in: Fracking's here! How can we pull this off with as few PR slip-ups as possible?

The Youngstown action merely draws a trend westward from Pennsylvania, as the Marcellus and Utica shale deposits of Ohio conjur glimmers of cash, energy and the press-friendly lure of jobs, jobs, jobs.

For illustration, here's the independent Shale Reporter with a tale from PA:

In February 2012, Allan Shipman, owner of Allan’s Waste Water Services Inc., pleaded guilty to dumping millions of gallons of water with natural gas drilling byproducts, sewage sludge and restaurant grease into streams and mine shafts in Allegheny, Fayette, Greene, Lawrence, Washington and Westmoreland counties in Pennsylvania from 2003-09.

According to court documents, Shipman was sentenced to seven years of probation, 1,750 hours of community service, had to dissolve or divest ownership of Allan’s Waste Water Services and Tri-County Waste Water Management Inc., and could never again be granted a state Department of Environment Protection permit.

About The Author

Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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