Bills boost brine rules

WARREN – Pieces of legislation making their way through the Statehouse would stiffen penalties in Ohio for the illegal disposal, transport and management of oilfield waste.

Democrat state Rep. Bob Hagan said the bill he is sponsoring in the House ”serves as a warning” that Ohio will not sacrifice safety and well-being ”for industry profit.”

The proposal he dropped Tuesday 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.

Now in Ohio, a first-time offender can be charged with a misdemeanor and face up to $10,000 in fines and six months for the first offense and $20,000 and two years for the second.

The bill also would require the state to revoke and deny future permits to any person or company convicted of illegal dumping.

”Companies that recklessly disregard our environmental laws should not be allowed to continue doing business in the state of Ohio,” Hagan said.

It’s being called the ”Lupo Bill,” after Ben Lupo, the owner of Hardrock Excavating LLC and D&L Energy, who is being accused in a federal indictment of the illegal dumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of drilling waste down a storm sewer drain in Youngstown. The material eventually seeped into the Mahoning River.

Lupo, 62, of Poland, and one of his employees, Michael P. Guesman of Cortland, are to appear March 15 in federal court in Youngstown to face a count each of violating the U.S. Clean Water Act.

A companion piece is in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in the Senate. Sponsor state Sen. Joe Schiavoni said he worked with Ohio’s attorney general, department of natural resources, environmental protection agency and governor’s office to develop the legislation. A meeting is set for next week to continue to work through the legislation, he said.

Oil and gas-related operators who ”knowingly, intentionally, purposefully” illegally discharge oilfield waste would be ”hit with a heavy jail sentence and heavy fine, and basically blacklisted from business in Ohio again,” said Schiavoni, D-Canfield.

”For all practical purposes, it’s one strike and you’re out,” Schiavoni said.