The federal government has filed criminal charges against the owner of a Youngstown company that it says illegally dumped wastewater from oil and gas drilling. Ideastream’s Michelle Kanu reports.
Prosecutors say Ben Lupo deliberately ordered employees of Hardrock Excavating Company to dump thousands of gallons of drilling waste into a storm drain on the company’s premises.
US Attorney Steve Dettlebach says that’s a direct violation of the federal Clean Water Act.
Dettlebach made the announcement before a group of state officials and news outlets on the banks of the Mahoning River.
Dettlebach: “The charge currently pending carries a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. Mr. Lupo appeared in federal court this morning and pleaded not guilty. The investigation into this case is continuing.”
Attorney General Mike DeWine was one of the state officials present. He says the feds have stepped in because the federal law carries stiffer penalties. DeWine says he thinks it’s time Ohio’s law catches up.
DeWine: “Under Ohio law this offense would be a misdemeanor with up to one year in prison. I believe that Ohio should follow what the federal government has done and make this a felony with a 2 to five year penalty.”
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has revoked the operating permits of Hardrock Excavating and D&L Energy Group, another company owned by Lupo that operates deep injection wells for wastewater disposal.
Officials with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency say they are still trying to clean the remnants of oil, brine and other chemicals that spilled into the Mahoning River.