Youngstown Frackwater Dumper’s New Strategy to Reopen Business

We have the next chapter in the ongoing, very sad story of Ben Lupo, the Youngstown, OH man who ordered an employee to dump fracking wastewater down a sewer drain—wastewater that ended up in the Mahoning River (see Youngstown Business Dumped >200K Gal of Untreated Wastewater). The Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources promptly closed down both of the companies he owns and controls, D&L Energy and Hardrock Excavating (see OH Company Dumping Frack Wastewater in Drain May Appeal Shut-Down). Lupo and his lawyers have been desperately trying to get the “death sentence” for his companies lifted—at least for D&L Energy, a sizable operation with dozens of employees.

Lupo is now trying a new strategy in his attempt to reopen D&L Energy: He’s resigned from both D&L and Hardrock and has turned over ownership and control of the companies to his wife. D&L has officially “severed all ties” with Lupo. Question is, will it work?

The man accused of ordering one of his employees to dump oilfield waste down a storm sewer resigned from his company within weeks after the alleged incident, turning control as trustee and director over to his wife, according to documents filed Tuesday with the state’s Oil and Gas Commission.

Ben Lupo, 62, of Poland, who is under indictment on allegations that he violated the federal Clean Water Act, resigned Feb. 15 as director and trustee from D&L Energy. The posts were transferred to his wife, Holly Serensky Lupo.

His signed resignation is among more than 100 pages of documents filed by his attorneys Tuesday with Ohio’s Oil and Gas Commission in an attempt to regain D&L Energy’s operating permits revoked by the commission.

The company’s attorneys argue that D&L Energy should not be penalized for actions alleged to have occurred under the direction of Lupo at one of Lupo’s sister companies, Hardrock Excavating.

Lupo, his former employee Michael Guesman and Hardrock Excavating each are facing a federal criminal charge stemming from an incident in which crude and brine were dumped into a storm sewer on the D&L Energy property, 2761 Salt Springs Road, and ultimately drained into the Mahoning River. All three defendants have pleaded innocent to the charges in U.S. District Court.

“The Chief (of the Ohio Oil and Gas Commission) has no documents or recorded reports or interviews to show that any employee during the interviews following the dumping incident identified themselves as acting on behalf of D&L Energy,” the attorneys wrote in the papers filed Tuesday. “Therefore, D&L Energy must be afforded the appropriate due process to contest the chief’s conclusion before its permits are revoked.”

The attorneys, Michael A. Cyphert and Bozana L. Lundberg of Cleveland, also argue that D&L should not be penalized for the actions of a “sister” company.

“D&L has suffered … irreparable harm. The order of the Chief has already had a significant impact on D&L Energy’s business,” the attorneys wrote. “These monetary losses may never be recovered. Further, D&L Energy has had to lay off a significant number of its workforce associated with the brine injection business.”

The document also claims that D&L Energy has spent more than $400,000 to “voluntarily abate pollution caused by others and has severed all ties with Mr. Lupo.”

Cleanup of the storm drain, the river and tributaries continued in Youngstown for more than a month, costing more than $1 million. Several of the private companies contracted to help clean up the mess have since filed lawsuits against D&L Energy and its officials in an attempt to collect payment that they claim is overdue.

D&L’s arguments came in response to documents filed last month by the state in an attempt to justify the removal of D&L Energy’s permits to operate oilfield waste wells known as injection wells.

The state’s argument, filed March 22, indicates that D&L Energy conducted brine disposal operations in a “manner that led to the pollution and contamination of waters of the state of Ohio.”

During the probe into the alleged brine dumping, state investigators say they determined that D&L Energy had contracted with an unregistered hauler to transport brine and had accepted waste from unregistered haulers, leading to the revocation of D&L Energy’s permits.

The matter is set for a hearing April 12 at the offices of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in Columbus.*

*Warren (OH) Tribune Chronicle (Apr 3, 2013) – Lupo resigns from D&L leadership