Lupo brine dumping trial set for April 8
By Peter H. Milliken
The jury trial of Ben Lupo and his company, Hardrock Excavating LLC, on a charge of violating the Clean Water Act in the dumping of oil-field waste into a Mahoning River tributary will begin April 8 in federal court.
A final pretrial conference for Lupo, 62, of Poland, and Hardrock will be at 10:30 a.m. March 24 before U.S. District Judge Donald C. Nugent.
The sentencing for Michael P. Guesman, 34, of Cortland, who pleaded guilty to that charge Aug. 29, will be at 10 a.m. March 20.
Although Lupo and Hardrock have pleaded not guilty, Guesman says in his written plea agreement that he dumped brine and drilling mud down a storm drain from 20,000-gallon storage tanks on Salt Springs Road in Youngstown at Lupo’s direction on 24 nights beginning Dec. 12, 2012.
The U.S. attorney has agreed to recommend favorable consideration for Guesman at his sentencing in exchange for his acceptance of responsibility and “substantial assistance” to the prosecution.
The investigation of the case was triggered by a Jan. 31, 2013, discharge that resulted in a massive cleanup of the unnamed tributary and of the Mahoning River, used specialized contractors and cost more than $1 million.
Judge Nugent has approved a request by Brad J. Beeson, the assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting the case, for an order that D&L Energy Inc., on whose behalf Lupo agreed to pay for the cleanup, be required to produce documents concerning the cleanup cost.
Beeson said he needs these documents to prepare for the trial because they “will be evidence of the harm done to the environment.”
Penalties for those convicted of violating the Clean Water Act range from probation to three years in prison and a fine up to $250,000.