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Ohio Oil & Gas Commission Upholds Shutdown of D&L Injection Wells

A decision by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) that D&L Energy Inc. cannot keep its injection well permits and must properly dispose stored material has been upheld by the Ohio Oil and Gas Commission.

ODNR permanently revoked the operating permits for D&L and Hardrock Excavating LLC in February after employees were seen dumping oilfield waste into a storm drain in Youngstown that empties into the Mahoning River (see Shale Daily, Feb. 11). D&L appealed the decision.

"This is a significant step forward in an important case," said Ohio Attorney General DeWine. "The commission's decision to deny D&L Energy's appeal is a win for the environment and for Ohio families."

D&L can appeal the commission's decision, which an attorney representing the company had called "a gross violation of due process" (see Shale Daily, March 26).

When it issued its decision in February, ODNR said it had received an anonymous tip of illegal dumping at a storage facility on Salt Springs Road during the evening of Jan. 31. The agency said it immediately dispatched contractors to the site, and containment booms, absorbent pads, vacuum trucks and other equipment were deployed to try to contain the waste. The ODNR ordered D&L to cease all injection well operations in the state and its temporary storage operations at a facility on Salt Springs Road. The agency also revoked D&L's six injection well permits, denied D&L's applications for three new injection well permits and revoked Hardrock's brine haulers permit.

Separately, Ben Lupo, the former CEO of D&L and a minority owner of Hardrock, has been indicted for his role in the discharge, DeWine said. Court documents in the case United States of America v. Lupo et al (No. 4:13CR113) show Lupo has entered "not guilty" pleas to a charge that he violated the Clean Water Act (CWA) by allegedly ordering a Hardrock employee to dump the waste into a storm drain (see Shale Daily, Feb. 19). The indictment, issued by a grand jury in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, alleges that Lupo, Hardrock, and one Hardrock employee, Michael Guesman, violated the CWA by discharging pollutants without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.

A notice of violation issued in February by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency indicated that oil and "drilling operation water, brine and brine residue material was intentionally discharged to [a] storm sewer by [a] company employee under direction of Ben Lupo, owner."

In 2012, D&L was at the center of another controversy after a dozen small earthquakes hit the Youngstown area. An investigation by the ODNR found that the earthquakes may have been caused by a Class II injection well in Youngstown owned by D&L (see Shale Daily, March 12, 2012; Jan. 5, 2012). The well remains offline and depressurized.

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