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Courts and Crime


Youngstown drilling company owner pleads guilty to polluting Mahoning River
Ben Lupo ordered tanks of frackwater to be dumped down storm sewer.
by WKSU's MARK URYCKI


Reporter
Mark Urycki
 
Assistant U.S. attorney Brad Beeson talks to reporters outside the Carl B. Stokes Federal Court House Building. Ben Lupo is scheduled to be sentenced June 16th.
Courtesy of MARK URYCKI
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In The Region:
On the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, a Youngstown man pleaded guilty to dumping some oil and fracking waste water into the Mahoning River a year and a half ago. Ben Lupo faces three years in prison, fines, and three million dollars in cleanup costs.
LISTEN: Lupo's day in court

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Ben Lupo looked older than his 63 years when he faced Judge Donald Nugent in Cleveland federal court.

He pleaded guilty to ordering an employee of his company, Hardrock Excavating LLC, to run a hose from some of the company’s 58 storage tanks, and dumping their contents down a storm sewer that led to the river.  It was a mixture of brine, fracking mud and some oil – including benzene and toluene.  

Assistant U.S. attorney Brad Beeson says Lupo may be retired but his company is also on the hook for fines and restitution.   

“The company today did not plead guilty, and we’re still in negotiations with the company and we’ll see where it leads.   They’re a charged party and before this is all over, there has to be some resolution with the company.” 

Beeson says Lupo is not being made an example of.

“The United States got involved with this because there was a pollutant discharge that made it into a water of the United States.”

But when asked if the Lupo case was a message to other companies who dump illegally, Beeson answered this way responded:

“That was the intent of this prosecution: to send that message.”

Denunciations
Politicians have been lining up to denounce Lupo since the dumping was made public. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine issued a statement today saying, “Ben Lupo put his own business interests ahead of the health and safety of our citizens, natural resources and wildlife by repeatedly releasing or ordering the release of his company’s brine waste into the Mahoning River. He will now be held accountable for this terrible crime. "

Randall Ashe, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Ohio, said, "As natural gas exploration continues, it must be done in a way that ensures the drilling byproducts are treated and disposed of safely and legally. This case demonstrates that if companies and their owners skirt environmental laws, EPA will hold them accountable.”

There was no evidence of a fish kill in the Mahoning River.

Another of Ben Lupo’s companies, D&L Energy,  got into trouble three years ago for injecting waste water into the a deep injection well.

The state ordered it to stop after 11 earthquakes were traced to the wells.D&L was auctioned off in bankrupcty proceedings last year to a Colorado company for $20.7 million. 

Lupo willl be sentenced June 16th.  

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