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D&L appeals commission's June ruling in Franklin County

Published: Sat, July 20, 2013 @ 12:10 a.m.

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By Jamison Cocklin



D&L Energy has appealed a decision made by the Ohio Oil and Gas Commission last month that upheld state regulator’s decision to revoke its operating permits.

The appeal, filed Friday in Franklin County Common Pleas Court in Columbus, comes within days of the 30-day deadline to do so. It stems from a 26-page ruling the commission issued June 21 after nearly a month of deliberations on the case.

A hearing date is set for Oct. 13.

D&L first went before the commission in May to argue against a decision made by Richard J. Simmers, chief of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. In February, Simmers revoked six injection-well permits, denied applications for three others in the state and suspended D&L’s waste storage and disposal business.

When the commission upheld that decision last month, it essentially chose to bar the company from Ohio’s waste-disposal industry.

The company faces bankruptcy proceedings and a host of other litigation from an incident that occurred Jan. 31, when federal and state investigators discovered that one of D&L’s sister companies, Hardrock Excavating, had dumped thousands of gallons of oilfield waste down a storm drain that made its way into the Mahoning River.

At the time, both D&L and Hardrock were owned by Ben W. Lupo. An investigation later revealed that Lupo ordered the dumping. He is charged with violating the U.S. Clean Water Act and has since pleaded not guilty.

Since it first appealed ODNR’s decision in March, D&L has argued that it cannot be held responsible for Hardrock’s actions, even though both companies were owned by Lupo.

In its ruling, however, the commission found that Lupo shared corporate responsibility for both companies, benefited financially by avoiding costly treatment of the waste his employee dumped, and that the company never clearly distinguished itself from several others operating at D&L’s headquarters, including Hardrock, on Salt Springs Road where the dumping incident occurred.

The commission is based in Columbus, and as a result, the Franklin County Common Pleas Court has jurisdiction over its decisions. Now that the matter has entered a trial court, if D&L is not satisfied with a ruling there, it could eventually go higher to an appellate court.

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