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Owner of Ohio Waste Dumper Pleads Guilty; Employee Sentenced

Ben W. Lupo, who in February 2013 pleaded not guilty to violating the Clean Water Act for his role in dumping tens of thousands of gallons of oilfield waste down a storm drain in Youngstown, OH, reversed course on Monday and pleaded guilty to the charge in U.S. District Court in Cleveland.

Lupo, the former owner of Youngstown-based D&L Energy and Hardrock Excavating LLC,  instructed an employee beginning in 2012 to dump brine water and other oilfield waste from storage tanks at his company's headquarters (see Shale Daily, Feb. 19, 2013). The waste was disposed of on more than 20 separate occasions in a storm drain that fed into the Mahoning River, according to an affidavit and other court documents filed last year.

After state regulators learned of the misdeed it cost more than $1 million to contain and clean-up, and it led to a high-profile case that stirred the ire of local residents and blemished the oil and gas industry in Northeast Ohio.

Following Lupo's guilty plea on Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Donald C. Nugent set a sentencing date of June 16, when Lupo will learn whether he gets jail time. Violating the Clean Water Act is punishable by up to three years in prison, a $250,000 fine and one year of parole. Federal prosecutors, who conducted an investigation into the matter along with state agencies in Ohio, will ask for the maximum three-year prison sentence.

Shortly after the dumping incident, which was discovered on Jan. 31, 2013, the permits of both D&L, an exploration and production company; and Hardrock Excavating, an oilfield services company, were revoked (see Shale Daily, March 7, 2013). Last April, D&L filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and its assets were eventually sold to Resource Land Holdings LLC for $20.7 million (see Shale Daily, Nov. 20, 2013).

After pleading guilty in August, Michael P. Guesman, the former employee that Lupo instructed to make the illegal dumps, was sentenced last week to three years probation and 300 hours of community service in exchange for his cooperation in building a case against Lupo.

Nugent has also ordered a pre-sentence investigation, which will scrutinize Lupo's finances.

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