Drilling Down

Schiavoni Proposes Greater Penalties for Brine Dumpers

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — State Sen. Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni, D-33 Boardman, re-introduced legislation Monday that would revise Ohio’s oil and gas laws to increase penalties and revoke permits for improperly disposing of brine.

Senate Bill 120 was first introduced in 2013 after the discovery that a tanker truck operated by D&L Energy in Youngstown, owned by Ben Lupo, had dumped as many as 20,000 gallons of drilling waster and brine water into a storm sewer that fed directly into the Mahoning River. Lupo was sentenced in August to 28 months in prison and fined $25,000 for violating the Clean Water Act.

“It is important that we ensure further accountability at the state level and deter future offenders,” Schiavoni said. “While I encourage the continued exploration of oil and gas in the Mahoning Valley and throughout the state, we must have strong laws in place to protect the environment and the public.”

The legislation would raise the state penalties for knowingly disposing of oil and gas waste illegally to the levels found in the federal Clean Water Act. Those penalties include a felony and a fine of not less than $10,000 and no more than $50,000 or imprisonment for 3 years, or both for the first offense, and no less than $20,000 and no more than $100,000 or imprisonment for 6 years on subsequent offenses.

Senate Bill 120 would also allow the following:

Require all individuals who apply for a permit to register with the Division of Oil and Gas.

  • Authorize the chief of the Division of Oil and Gas to suspend activities that are authorized under a permit issued by their office for drilling, injection or brine transportation if it is found that the owner or someone employed by that operation has committed a substantial violation, and provides a timeframe for the problems to be corrected.
  • Authorize the chief of the Division of Oil and Gas to refuse to issue a new permit for an applicant who has failed to comply with an order to fix a substantial violation and prevents an applicant from circumventing this refusal by applying under a different name or business.

The Oil and Gas chief would also have the power to permanently revoke any permit issued to a person found guilty, and to deny any future application by the person for a permit.

“The purpose of this bill is not to hinder oil and gas exploration throughout eastern and northeastern Ohio,” Schiavoni said. “However, we must reaffirm our commitment to ensuring clean water for Ohioans and send a message that intentional disposal will not be tolerated.”

SOURCE: Office of state Sen. Joe Schiavoni.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.