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By Marc Kovac
Representatives from two state groups with generally opposing viewpoints on energy policy are like- minded in their positions on companies that illegally dump oilfield wastes.
Both Tom Stewart, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, and Jack Shaner, deputy director of the Ohio Environmental Council, told an audience in Columbus on Wednesday that companies caught participating in such activities should lose their operational permits.
“We have been very outspoken in saying that if laws were broken and this person purposely polluted and avoided his obligations under the law, then that person should suffer the full consequences of the law,” Stewart said.
Shaner took it a step further, calling for the implementation of a “corporate death penalty,” meaning the guilty parties should be blocked from doing business.
He said, “If the character in Youngstown, if found guilty, that guy should not only lose his current permit, which [the Ohio Department of Natural Resources] has suspended ... His ability, his right to ever do business in the state of Ohio again on anything, should be permanently revoked,” he said.
Shaner was referring to former D&L Energy and Hardrock Excavating owner Ben W. Lupo, who was charged with violating the Clean Water Act, after state and federal regulators discovered that he ordered the dumping of tens of thousands of gallons of oilfield waste into a tributary that fed the Mahoning River at his company’s headquarters in Youngstown. Lupo has since pleaded not guilty to those charges.
Shaner, often a vocal critic of the oil and gas industry and the potential environmental harm posed by fracking, acknowledged policies adopted by Gov. John Kasich and Republican lawmakers. He cited crackdowns on D&L Energy and affiliated companies in the Youngstown area and a brine hauler in Belmont County that purportedly dumped oilfield waste fluids.
D&L lost its permits to operate injection wells shortly after regulators uncovered dumping at its sister company, Hardrock Excavating — a decision it is appealing with the Ohio Oil and Gas Commission.
“Kasich’s team got all over that guy, wants to put him out of business,” Shaner said. “They’re doing the right thing.”
In response to a question about the Youngstown dumping incident, Stewart said, “If you’re a person who’s responsible for the company, and you’re an officer — and my understanding is the allegation is that he directed them to do it — then I think that he should be denied permits. ... I don’t think anyone in my industry disagrees with that.”