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If the state protects polluters from exposure, everyone loses



Published: Wed, February 6, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

Accidents happen, but last week’s dumping of an estimated 20,000 gallons of fracking waste into a Youngstown storm sewer feeding into the Mahoning River was no accident. It was a criminal assault on the environment and should be treated as such.

This incident should set off alarm bells from here to Columbus for a number of reasons.

It happened on the property of D&L Energy, which was the site of an injection well that was shut down after earthquakes in 2010 and 2011.

One would think that if anyone involved in the drilling industry was going to be concerned about going strictly by the books it would be D&L’s chief executive, Ben W. Lupo, who operates a number of related companies. But anyone who thought so would be wrong. An Ohio EPA incident report says an employee of Hardrock Excavating, one of Lupo’s companies, said Lupo told him to dump the contaminated water into the sewer. After more than 120 citations for questionable operations at various sites, Lupo shows little more than contempt for the law.

It has been nearly a week since the incident, but any information about it had to be dragged from the two state agencies responsible for oversight of gas drilling and damage to the environment, the Ohio Environment Protection Agency and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

As of Tuesday, Gov. John Kasich had been briefed, but Youngstown city officials, including the fire chief, the mayor’s office, the department of public works and the police chief, had been given only the bare minimum of information.

The Utica shale oil and gas industry is in its infancy in the Mahoning Valley and while many are excited about its potential, many others are wary or even alarmed about its possible impact on the environment. The last thing the industry needs is the alarmingly irresponsible behavior demonstrated on D&L’s property.

Those who should be most concerned are the companies that are investing hundreds of millions of dollars into this industry — one that they are eager to have seen as a good corporate neighbor. They should join the public and the media in demanding not only the stiffest possible penalties for those who pollute, but greater transparency on the local and state levels.

There is an argument to be made that laws regulating the industry must be uniform across the state. But that doesn’t mean the governor’s office has a stronger interest in what’s happening in Youngstown than the mayor’s office.

Respect the locals

When pollutants are poured into a public waterway, local officials and the public should be notified. When criminal activity is evident, there ought to be a local police report and a recognition that the local prosecutor’s office has an interest in knowing what’s going on.

If the state wants to be trusted on matters of public health involving all aspects of fracking, it has to demonstrate its willingness to expose rogue operators who purposely despoil the land.

So far, the hero in this case is an anonymous tipster. Without him, who knows how much damage Lupo may have done. Of course, based on the state’s secretive response so far, no one yet knows just what was poured down that sewer and what the effect may be. And that’s wrong on multiple levels.


Comments

1formerdemliberal(182 comments)posted 1 year, 6 months ago

If found true, Lupo should be prosecuted to the letter of the law, but let's not ignore the majority of fracking operators that attempt to do what is best for their stockholders, customers, and the communities in which they operate. Unfortunately, in a market-based economy, there will always be a minority of executives who place their own greed and self-interest ahead of public welfare. Additional regulatory oversight and bureaucracy to regulate illegal behavior will not stop unethical business people who place profits over community responsibility and environmental safety.

I agree that local safety (police, fire, EPA, Hasmat) officials should be informed immediately when such any potential environmental contamination is reported, but I would not necessarily include elected officials such as Bob Hagen who will only use any negative activity to demagogue, tax and over-regulate an industry that represents the best economic opportunity this area has seen since the height of the local steel industry.

In Bob Hagen's world, there is no such thing as a good private-sector job. The only good jobs for Big Bob are government jobs or government -financed subsidies that he can dish out to his hand-picked industry buddies to maintain his "big fish in a small pond" power base.

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2Boar7734(66 comments)posted 1 year, 6 months ago

Lupo's network of companies have shown they are not good corporate neighbors and are not to trusted. One must wonders how many times has Lupo thumbed his nose at the public and the State since the Youngstown SWIW (salt water injecdtion well) was closed. All existing Lupo projects and SWIW's should be inspected immediately by ODNR and all new permits applied and not granted as of yet should be summarily rejected under Lupo's management. Responsible drilling and proper disposal in non residental areas are welcomed in this region. Those who violate the State and public trust due to deliberate illegal action that threatens the environment and health of the public should not be permitted to continue to operate. All expense to clean up, fines and jail time would send a clear message.

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