By Marc Kovac
State lawmakers plan to introduce legislation to increase criminal penalties against individuals and companies that illegally dump oil-field waste.
Sens. Joe Schiavoni, a Democrat from Boardman, and Frank LaRose, a Republican from the Akron area, plan to offer the law changes, including a requirement that the state revoke existing permits and deny future ones for those convicted of the crime.
Rep. Bob Hagan, a Democrat from Youngstown, is considering comparable legislation in the Ohio House, and Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine has said he supports those efforts.
“Growing industries such as oil and gas have tremendous opportunity to create jobs and spur our economy, but we must balance those interests with the health and safety of Ohioans and our natural resources,” LaRose said.
“This legislation puts into place tough penalties for unscrupulous operators like those in Youngstown who choose to endanger the environment and people’s health.”
The legislation comes in response to an incident in Mahoning County involving the illegal dumping of hundreds of thousands of gallons of drilling waste into a storm sewer.
Earlier this month, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency announced the permanent revocation of permits of D&L Energy and Hardrock Excavating, and company owner Ben Lupo is facing federal criminal charges.
Both DeWine and Gov. John Kasich said earlier this week that the state may need to change its laws to better deal with egregious incidents of illegal dumping.
Under current law, perpetrators face misdemeanor charges. Under the bill proposed by Schiavoni and LaRose, violators would face felony charges, with the potential for three or more years in prison and fines of $10,000-plus.
“If you’re going to cut corners and you’re going to try to save a couple of bucks, then you’re going to pay the price, and it’s going to be a heavy consequence if you violate the law,” Schiavoni said, adding, “This is something that should be changed. This is something that is necessary, and this is something that can prevent future bad actors from doing this.”