Early last week, we covered the response of Ohio regulators to an alleged release of hydraulic fracturing waste into a Youngstown, Ohio area tributary by Hard Rock Excavating (Hard Rock), an affiliate of oil and gas player D&L Energy Group (D&L). In addition to the state regulatory enforcement measures against Hard Rock and D&L, the U.S. Department of Justice has charged the owner of those entities with violation of the federal Clean Water Act. If convicted, the owner could face up to three years in prison and a fine reaching $250,000. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine also intends to seek civil penalties under state law against Hard Rock and D&L of between $2,500 and $25,000 for each violation per day.
Underscoring the state’s stern response to non-compliant drilling waste practices, two Ohio state senators have proposed a bill (SB 46) to heighten sanctions on transgressors. If passed, the bill would increase criminal penalties for violations of the Ohio oil and gas law relating to improper disposal, transport, and management of brine, and require the revocation and future denial of a violator’s permits and registration certificates. Currently, Ohio has no law barring the issuance of future permits.
The state and federal response to this release and the recently proposed enhancements to state regulatory oversight of drilling waste disposal under HB 59 highlight the increased scrutiny and stiff penalties for non-compliance faced by Ohio oil and gas industry participants in connection with their waste management practices. We will continue to monitor the progress of the proposed legislation and Ohio’s disposal-related regulatory efforts.
Press coverage of the state and federal actions can be found here and here.