WARREN - A ruling Tuesday could put Warren's Patriot Water Treatment plant back in business.
The Columbus-based Environmental Review Appeals Commission on Tuesday issued a decision that the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency's action banning the City of Warren from accepting waters from Patriot was unlawful.
The Ohio EPA's permit action meant production at Patriot Water has been idled since April 1 of this year.
Patriot laid off all 25 of its employees on April 14 after the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency issued new permits banning Warren's Water Pollution Control Department from accepting brine water treated at Patriot.
The water, which is a byproduct of oil and gas drilling, was Patriot's sole product and the reason the Warren company opened.
"We are grateful that ERAC took the time to really evaluate all of the evidence and the applicable law," said Andrew Blocksom, president of Patriot. "We have always known that we have the truth on our side and that, eventually, someone would take the time to hear us out."
Specifically, ERAC determined that the Ohio EPA overstepped its regulatory authority based on a policy change that occurred after a change in administrations and with the appointment of Scott Nally as the new Ohio EPA director. In its ruling, ERAC determined the Ohio EPA had no claim that Patriot's or Warren's activities caused any water quality concerns. What it did determine was the Ohio EPA's shut down of Patriot was based only on a policy decision outside Nally's authority.
After the company went idle in April, Blocksom spent months reaching out to elected officials and the administration in an effort to save his private business, which was started without any governmental money. Finally, Blocksom and Warren had no choice but to go to the courts to save the company.
"We are pleased that the court recognized the Ohio EPA had no claims of any water quality issues," said Tom Angelo, Warren's director of water pollution control.
Officials with the Ohio EPA could not be reached for comment on the ruling after hours on Tuesday. It was unclear when operations might be able to restart at the Warren plant.
April Bott of Bott Law Group LLC, legal counsel for both Patriot and Warren, noted this decision concludes a very long and difficult process for her clients. "My clients received all necessary permits and approvals in 2010. In my 15 years of practicing environmental law in Ohio, I have never seen a similar situation where the Ohio EPA issues a permit and changes policy post-issuance," she said.
Blocksom added, "We're eager to get our business back up and running and provide individuals and families in our community the opportunity to work, which has been an important part of our vision from the start."