Judge tosses Patriot lawsuit

WARREN – A judge in Ohio’s Court of Claims has sided with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and dismissed a lawsuit in which Patriot Water Treatment Co. was seeking more than $3 million in damages.

In a ruling issued Friday in Columbus, Judge Patrick M. McGrath determined his court lacks jurisdiction in the lawsuit and that the matter being disputed should have been handled during an earlier case before an environmental appeals board.

The lawsuit stemmed from Patriot’s accusations that ODNR hid and destroyed public records requested by Patriot.

Patriot Water president Andrew Blocksom said Tuesday he remains steadfast in his belief that the company is correct and is considering appealing the dismissal.

Patriot Water treats brine waste water generated in the oil and natural gas drilling industry, then disposes of it through the Warren Pollution Control Department. Permits allowing the disposal were initially granted in 2010 by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, but the agency later issued new permits to Warren’s Water Pollution Control Department that included a ban on accepting brine water treated at Patriot.

The ban shut down Patriot’s operations for three months last year while Patriot fought the decision before the Environmental Review Appeals Commission. Ultimately, Patriot won a challenge of ODNR’s ruling through ERAC, but lost millions of dollars in business during the process.

Patriot Water brought the lawsuit in November alleging the state had hid and destroyed public records that would have helped Patriot resolve the ERAC case more quickly.

The Ohio Attorney General’s office, which is representing ODNR, had argued for the dismissal, maintaining the court should have no jurisdiction to hear appeals and that Patriot’s lawsuit is “in essence, nothing more than a litany of the disputes that Patriot and (the OEPA) have already resolved” before ERAC.

April Bott, attorney for Patriot, disagreed Tuesday, saying this is the only Ohio court where damages can be sought against a state agency.

“This is absolutely the right court for seeking damages. That is why there is a right to appeal,” Bott said. “Because they withheld documents, we were forced to shut down, and that’s why we are seeking damages. … He (Blocksom) should have a right, as should every citizen, to the records.”

ODNR declined to comment on the matter.

Two separate cases in which Patriot also seeks the release of public records from ODNR and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency also are pending in the Tenth District Court of Appeals in Franklin County.