State senator to testify for Lupo Bill

Shale Drilling

State Sen. Joe Schiavoni is expected to testify Wednesday in front a senate committee about his bill that would increase penalties for anyone caught illegally dumping oilfield waste.

Schiavoni, D-Boardman, will delver testimony at 10 a.m. to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Schiavoni also said he plans to introduce a substitute version of S.B. 46 he says “keeps the focus on the legislation on adopting tougher penalties for illegal dumping of brine from oil and gas drilling.”

Schiavoni and State Rep. Bob Hagan, D-Youngstown, each introduced companion bills following an alleged illegal oilfield waste dump on Salts Springs Road that contaminated the Mahoning River.

The company’s owner, Ben Lupo, 61, of Poland, and an employee, Michael Guesman, 35, of Cortland, are facing federal illegal dumping charges that carry a three-year maximum prison sentence.

State and federal officials investigated the incident at the company’s 2761 Salt Springs Road headquarters, but federal officials took the lead in prosecuting because they could invoke harsher penalties upon conviction.

Current state law allows a first offender to be charged with a misdemeanor and face up to $10,000 in fines and six months in jail and $20,000 and two years for the second.

The proposed legislation would elevate the crime to a felony and place minimum fines and jail sentences of $10,000 and three years for the first offense and $20,000 and six years for the second.

Lupo has since stepped down as D & L’s president but retained an 81 percent ownership in the companies, according to records. D & L also has filed for bankruptcy.

A field report by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency says Lupo told investigators ordering brine dumps into the storm sewer  on a “regular basis” and later said it he ordered the dumps at least six times between September and February. He said the brine was “light water” that came from cleaning out frac tanks that stored a variety of fracking fluids.

Lupo said he tried to dispose the water in the Koontz well in Leavittsburg and the Peribeck well in New Lyme but the tanks were full, so he ordered they be dumped into storm drain that flowed into the Mahoning River, the report says.

D & L also is known for owning an injection well that was found to be the cause of 11 earthquakes in late 2011 and early 2012 in the Youngstown area. Those injection wells were shut down by the state. The company was cited for more than 50 violations in Ohio since the 1980s, but ODNR granted Lupo a permit for a new injection well on Jan. 7, according to records obtained by WKBN.COM.

The company has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Filings say D & L owns assets totaling more than $50 million and expects to make more than $2 million this year. Lupo resigned his position as president of the company the day after he was indicted, but kept an 81 percent ownership in the company filings say. His wife, Holly Serensky Lupo, owns four percent and Susan Faith, of Girard, owns the remaining 15 percent.

Bankruptcy filings also say officials may have improperly diverted funds from D & L to other companies the group owns and operates.

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