Lupo no stranger to ODNR

WARREN – Eight times since 1998, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources ordered Youngs-town businessman Ben Lupo to suspend operations at his injection wells.

Those suspensions came among 27 notices of violation involving things like mechanical failure, contamination and failure to monitor pressure at Lupo’s injection wells, locations in which oilfield waste is deposited deep underground for permanent disposal.

In most instances, Lupo was allowed to resume operations after making repairs, according to documents inside Lupo’s file, released Thursday by the state agency following a Tribune Chronicle records request.

Lupo is at the center of controversy involving reports that under his direction, his employees have been dumping oilfield waste down storm drains on the company’s property at 2761 Salt Springs Road, Youngstown.

Lupo, 62 of Poland, was charged Thursday with federal violations of the Clean Water Act. If convicted, he faces up to three years in prison, a $250,000 fine and a year of supervised release. The investigation remains ongoing.

A Tribune Chronicle analysis of the ODNR records shows Lupo’s company, D&L Energy, was cited frequently through the years on violations stemming from operations at his injection wells.

According to the records involving one well in Warren Township, inspectors in 2002 discovered that tubing and other materials had been removed, making the well an “imminent danger to public health or safety that is likely to result in immediate substantial damage to natural resources,” the report states.

The well was ordered shut down immediately until the repairs were made.

The well was repaired and reopened only to have inspectors find the same problem in 2004. Weeks later, the well was again allowed to resume operations.

Another well, in Windham in Portage County, is listed more than a half-dozen times for contamination, pollution and other issues, beginning as early as 1987 and lasting into the 2000s.

A message left for an ODNR spokeswoman seeking comment on the continued violations was not immediately returned late Thursday.

Reports stemming from Lupo’s numerous violations and the latest criminal charges have led to many public officials and anti-hydraulic fracturing activists to call for stricter regulations.

State Rep. Robert Hagan, D-Youngstown, has been vocal about Lupo’s violations and about stiffening Ohio laws. He also is calling for the state to add more inspectors for drilling sites.

State Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Youngstown, said Thursday he also plans to introduce tougher drilling legislation.

Ohio Attorney General Michael DeWine has said he agrees tougher laws are needed for those involved in the oil and gas industry in Ohio, noting that offenders should be fined by the day for ongoing offenses.

”I believe Ohio law has to catch up to where the federal law is,” DeWine said.