Hagan bill would make oil and gas violations stronger

Staff report


State Rep. Robert Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th, has introduced legislation to impose tougher penalties for the illegal dumping of waste from oil and gas drilling.

House Bill 93 will stiffen the criminal penalties for violating state oil and gas laws relating to the improper disposal, transport and management of brine so the punishment matches federal law.

The legislation would revoke and deny future permits to any individual or company convicted of illegal dumping.

The bill will serve as companion legislation to Senate Bill 46, which was co-sponsored by state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, D-33rd. SB 46 will elevate illegal dumping to a felony that imposes a minimum sentence of three years in prison and a $10,000 fine for anyone who knowingly violates the law. Additional convictions would carry a six-year minimum sentence and a $25,000 fine.

Both pieces of legislation stem from a Jan. 31 incident when D&L Energy owner Ben W. Lupo, who also owns Hardrock Excavating, purportedly directed a company employee to dump a mixture of oil, brine water and drilling mud down a storm drain at 2761 Salt Springs Road in Youngstown. The waste eventually leaked into a nearby tributary and into the Mahoning River.

A federal grand jury indicted Lupo, Hardrock and the employee who made the dump, on charges of violating the Clean Water Act.

Those events also helped to prompt a citizens rally Wednesday in Columbus.

Individuals and groups from across the state converged on the Statehouse to lobby for legislator support of proposed legislation that would protect Ohioans from the effects of hydraulic fracturing or fracking.

Fracking is the process in which water, chemicals and sand are blasted into rocks thousands of feet below the ground to unlock natural gas and oil.

Organized as part of Legislator Accountability Day, the groups called for a return of local municipal control over oil and gas activities, passage of emergency medical right-to-know legislation and a ban on injection wells used for fracking waste.

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