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Ohio Utica Shale

Federal grand jury returns indictments in Youngstown dumping case

By Bob Downing Published: February 28, 2013

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

A federal grand jury in Cleveland returned an indictment against the owner of an oil and gas drilling company today, charging him with violating the Clean Water Act by dumping more than 20,000 gallons of fracking waste into a river in Youngstown.

In addition to the charges against Benedict Lupo, 62, of Poland, Ohio, the grand jury also returned Clean Water Act indictments against Lupo’s company, Hardrock Excavating, and an employee of the company, Michael Guesman, 34, of Cortland.

Guesman previously told federal agents that on Jan. 31 he dumped a toxic stew of drilling mud containing salt-water, crude oil and several hazardous pollutants, including benzene and toluene, into a storm drain that emptied into a tributary of the Mahoning River, according to a court document. The employee said he was acting on Lupo’s orders.

In the Lupo case, court documents state, an anonymous tipster alerted authorities from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources that the improper dumping of fracking waste was occurring, and state agents observed the crime as it was being committed, court documents said.

Guesman also said Lupo ordered him to lie if questioned about the dumping, and to tell law enforcement officers he had only emptied the 20,000-gallon waste tanks six times, when in fact he said he had done it more than 20 times, documents state.

Lupo specified that the dumping should only occur at night and after all of the other employees had left the facility, according to court documents.

About 58 mobile storage tanks are kept at the Hardrock facility, and each tank holds 20,000 gallons. Lupo owns about 20 companies, all contained under the umbrella company D&L Energy, located in Youngstown.

Lupo admitted giving the orders, but denied telling his employees to lie or that he had dumped fracking waste on more than six occasions between Nov. 1, 2012 and Jan. 31, 2013, according to a sworn statement by an agent with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Lupo and Guesman face a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of $50,000 per day of violation, or $250,000, whichever is larger. The company could be fined $50,000 per day of violation, or $500,000, whichever is larger.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said the state may also become involved in the dumping case. A preliminary investigation found evidence of illegal storage and transportation of fracking waste, which could result in civil fines of $2,500 to $25,000 per day, he said. Also, steps have been taken to revoke all operating permits granted to Lupo’s companies currently drilling at six fracking sites, he said.

 

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Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management State agency Web site.

ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. State drilling permits. List is updated weekly.

ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio State University Extension.

Ohio Farm Bureau.

Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a Granville-based group that represents 1,500 Ohio energy-related companies.

Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program.

Energy In Depth, a trade group.

Marcellus and Utica Shale Resource Center by Ohio law firm Bricker & Eckler.

Utica Shale, a compilation of Utica shale activities.

Landman Report Card, a site that looks at companies involved in gas and oil leases.FracFocus, a compilation of chemicals used in fracking individual wells as reported voluntarily by some drillers.

Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.

Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.

Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.

National Geographic's The Great Shale Rush.

The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.

Buckeye Forest Council.

Earthjustice, a national eco-group.

Stop Fracking Ohio.

People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.

Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.

No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.

Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.

Penn State Marcellus Center.

Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.

Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.