Corporate greed may stand to be the number one reason for companies choosing to commit acts against the environment and not comply with standards that are in place to protect it.
The Guilty Company
Benedict Lupo of Poland, Ohio, is the owner of Hardrock Excavating LLC. The company pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act by discharging brine into a tributary of the Mahoning River in Ohio. The company provided desalination services to the oil and gas industries in Ohio and Pennsylvania, including the storage of brine and oil-based drilling mud used in hydro fracturing, or fracking (Byrd, 2014). One of the largest reserves of natural gas in the world is the Marcellus Shales that lies underneath Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Oho and, New York (Lawrence & Weber 2014).
Ben Lupo put his own business interests ahead of the health and safety of citizens, natural resources and wildlife. Lupo ordered the release of his company’s brine waste into the Mahoning River. The multiple dumpings of toxic brine saline took place between November 1, 2012 and January 31, 2013 (Byrd, 2014). There were approximately 58 mobile storage tanks at the facility and each holds approximately 20,000 gallons. Lupo directed an employee to empty the waste liquid stored at the facility into a nearby wastewater drain. The employee conducted this activity only after no one else was at the facility and only after dark. The employee emptied some of the waste liquid at the facility into the nearby storm water drain using a hose on numerous occasions over the next several months. The drain flowed into a tributary of the Mahoning River and ultimately into the Mahoning River. The waste liquid contained brine and drill cuttings. A sample of the discharge taken that night was black in color and a subsequent analysis showed the presence of several hazardous pollutants, including benzene and toluene (Byrd, 2014)
This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Brad Beeson following an investigation by the Ohio EPA, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, U.S. EPA, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Youngstown Department of Public Works and the Youngstown Fire Department. The statutory maximum for violating the Clean Water Act is for individuals is three years in prison, one year of supervised release and a fine of $50,000 per day of violation or $250,000, whichever is larger. This case is being prosecuted by the Ohio EPA, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, U.S. EPA, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Youngstown Department of Public Works and the Youngstown Fire Department. (Byrd 2014)
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 (Lawrence & Weber 2014). This case demonstrates that if companies and their owners skirt environmental laws, EPA will hold them accountable. The process of fracking or hydro-fracking, is the horizontal drilling coupled with multi-stage hydraulic fracturing. This is a relatively new process of natural gas extraction. A well is drilled vertically to the desired depth, then turns ninety degrees and continues horizontally for several thousand feet into the shale believed to contain the trapped natural gas. A mix of water, sand, and various chemicals is pumped into the well at high pressure in order to create fissures and cracks in the shale through which the gas can escape. Natural gas escapes through the fissures and is drawn back up the well to the surface, where it is processed, refined, and shipped to market. Wastewater (also called "flow back water" or "produced water") returns to the surface after the fracking process is completed. This water is contained in steel tanks until it can be stored long-term by deep injection in oil and gas waste wells. Fracking is fundamentally different than traditional gas