Group wants feds to limit ODNR power

A national environmental group has asked the federal government to consider suspending Ohio’s authority to oversee disposal of oilfield waste after a Youngstown business owner was charged with ordering such waste be dumped into the Mahoning River watershed.

The Center for Health, Environment and Justice asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday to investigate and audit the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ program of regulating deep injection wells, according to a report by Tribune Chronicle newspartner WYTV 33 News. Attempts to reach the group on Monday afternoon were not successful.

It was reported that the group believes the federal EPA should conduct the audit because ODNR issued permits to companies owned and operated by Ben Lupo, 62, despite hundreds of violations by his oil and gas companies for violating safety and environmental regulations in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

ODNR spokeswoman Beth-any McCorkle has said that despite the knowledge that there were problems with wells operated by Lupo’s companies in Ohio and neighboring states, ODNR is bound by law to allow operations if the operator corrects the infraction.

“The actions by Mr. Lupo and lack of appropriate and adequate consequences by ODNR are just the latest in a long line of egregious problems with ODNR regulation of UIC that citizens have found while reviewing inspection records,” the Center for Health, Environment and Justice Field Office representative Teresa B. Mills wrote in a letter.

Lupo, one of his companies, Hardrock Excavating, and an employee, Michael Guesman, 34, of Cortland, are facing violations of the federal Clean Water Act. If convicted they could face up to three years in prison and / or fines.

McCorkle has said that despite the incidents, Ohio operates with the most stringent oil and gas industry regulations in the country, even surpassing federal regulations.