Ohio Businessman Sentenced to Prison for Polluting River


In an incredibly rare occurrence, the owner of a gas drilling company in Ohio has been sentenced to more than two years in prison for telling his employees to dump toxic fracking wastewater into a river and then instructing them to lie in order to cover it up.

The owner of a small Ohio oil and gas drilling company who ordered his employees to dump tens of thousands of gallons of fracking waste into a tributary of the Mahoning River was sentenced to a 28 months of prison on Tuesday, according to a Cleveland Plain Dealer report.

U.S. District Judge Donald Nugent also ordered 64-year-old Benedict Lupo, owner of Hardrock Excavating LLC, to pay $25,000 for unlawful discharge of pollutants under the U.S. Clean Water Act. Lupo pleaded guilty to the charges in March, admitting to having his employees dump fracking wastewater into the Mahoning River tributary 33 times.

According to the Dealer, the wastewaster consisted of “saltwater brine and a slurry of toxic oil-based drilling mud, containing benzene, toluene and other hazardous pollutants.” The recurring pollution had a devastating effect on the creek’s ecosystem, according to assistant U.S. attorney Brad Beeson…

The pollution ultimately flowed into the Mahoning River, which is a source of public drinking water for the cities of Newton Falls and Sebring — a combined population of more than 9,000.

If more high-ranking executives and business owners were put in prison rather than getting a fine that can be written off as the cost of doing business (and which rarely puts a dent in the money they made by breaking the law), you’d see this kind of corporate malfeasance become a whole lot less common.

Comments

  1. says

    If more high-ranking executives and business owners were put in prison rather than getting a fine that can be written off as the cost of doing business (and which rarely puts a dent in the money they made by breaking the law), you’d see this kind of corporate malfeasance become a whole lot less common.

    There’s no such thing as “corporate malfeasance”. If anything, it’s profeasance. Hardrock Excavating LLC cares enough about your health to put all those vitamins and nutrients in your water. For free! If anything, we owe them, and all Job Creators, a debt we can’t possibly repay. Tax cuts, subsidies and deregulation isn’t enough. We should expand the RFRA to cover all our Corporate Citizens, as they follow the truest and purest religion. In truth it’s purer than your water. Have you seen the shit that’s in it? More proof that Government Isn’t the Solution, It’s the Problem!

  2. reddiaperbaby1942 says

    Is this the first time this has happened? In any case, it’s great news and gives hope for the future. But I suspect it only happened because he runs a “small” company, which means he’s relatively powerless and can’t influence judges and politicians as much as the big companies can. It also means that an actual personal “owner” can be identified, who carries responsibility for his acts.
    The giant corporations can be condemned to pay fines and punitive damages, but that probably doesn’t really hurt them: if it isn’t covered by insurance, they simply take it out on the consumer by raising prices.

  3. reddiaperbaby1942 says

    I have to say I’ve always wondered about Modusoperandi: his (her?) posts generally seem to be satirical, but given the frightening quality of much of today’s rightwing discourse one can never be sure. #1 above in a case in point. Modus, maybe I’m being incredibly naïve, but please tell me if you’re being sarcastic or if you’re actually posting these things with a straight face!
    I realize this is of course an irresolvable paradox: your answer may be satirical or straight, and there’s no way of knowing. I guess I’ll just have to go on wondering.

  4. Alverant says

    Two years?! That’s nothing. He’ll whine and complain and maybe some other execs will want to put an end to the idea that somehow they are responsible for their actions and decide to “talk” the OH governor into a pardon or something. I agree with red’s first response, he only got convicted because he didn’t have enough money to throw around and say “I’ll shut down the business unless you let me go.”

    I also agree with red about Modus. I’m pretty sure he’s doing a Poe, but he’s doing it so well I have to wonder if it’s really an act. I have to assume it is an act because if it wasn’t, he probably would have been banned long ago or at least had hundreds of angry replies.

  5. captain_spleen says

    “So one of the bigger companies was happy to see a competitor get put away.”

    More likely this outfit was a low-bidding subcontractor doing a job for one of the majors. So the bigger company got the fracking output at a bargain rate, this company cut corners in order to eke out a profit despite their low bid, and is taking the fall.

  6. justawriter says

    I have long thought that the best way to punish corporate wrongdoing is to have all fines be paid in corporate stock that the government would immediately sell. It wouldn’t affect operations in the case of “too big to fail” companies. I wouldn’t put companies out of business so it won’t punish workers for their employer’s misdeeds. It would permanently dilute shareholder value and put pressure on directors and CEOs who could and would be booted for losing investors’ money. There could even be a “death penalty” where the company is forced to create so much new stock the current shareholders effective lose control of the company. As an added bonus, it would totally bust open “closely held companies” and their “religious” beliefs.

  7. Alverant says

    #7
    Good idea. It’s next to impossible to punish a company for its misdeeds since any fines will be passed along to consumers (or have personal be laid off to make up for it) and there’s going to be collateral damage. Meanwhile the people inside the company are going to point fingers and insist they’re not really responsible for one reason or another. So in the end everyone’s individual responsibility it too small for punishment unless you take half the execs to jail which will cause more collateral damage.

  8. lorn says

    Fines are easy enough for a company to avoid. You can always appeal, and appeal, and appeal and if by chance you get a business friendly Republican appointee the fine is instantly, and irrevocably, reduced to a fraction of the initial amount. Or they can close the business and reopen under a different name to avoid the fine. Or they can simply ignore it.

    If in the end they are forced to pay they can pay part and contest part of it and pretty much count on the government not aggressively pursuing it. Of course any fine, or portion of the fine, paid gets passed onto consumers.

    Serving time seems to be much more effective punishment and deterrent.

  9. otrame says

    @2

    Is this the first time this has happened?

    No, but it is extraordinarily rare. I remember a case, probably 30 or 40 years ago, where the owner of what I think was a photograph processing plant was charged with depraved indifference homicide because he hired undocumented men to work there and did not tell them that some of the chemicals they were using were not just toxic, but fatal. Something like 4 or 5 guys had died. He was convicted IIRC.

    And yes, the simple acknowledgement that “corporations” don’t break the law, people do, would make a HUGE difference in this country. Put a few CEOs in jail and these sorts of crimes would become much less common.

  10. otrame says

    @3 and 4,

    You guys are new around here? Modus is a national treasure. He has 90% of all internets gifted from this blog for the past several years.

  11. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    I have long thought that the best way to punish corporate wrongdoing is to have all fines be paid in corporate stock that the government would immediately sell.

    So in the end everyone’s individual responsibility it too small for punishment unless you take half the execs to jail which will cause more collateral damage.

    Put a few CEOs in jail and these sorts of crimes would become much less common.

    I think breaking on the wheel has a nice ring to it…

  12. Alverant says

    #14 No I am not new here. Modus is just so good at his job that even though you know it’s fake you have to wonder. Now if you want some good ranting listen to Rob Mungle on the Whiskey Brother’s Podcast. Half the time he’s serious, half the time he’s pulling a Poe. You can tell which is which but he really gets into it which makes it so funny.

    #15 What’s to keep the rest of the execs from reforming under a different name like that one mercenary company did and reapply? Also what about the other employees who did nothing wrong? You’re right, they’d never do it to a big company. You can’t go angering your biggest campaign contributors or risk being called a socialist by Fake News.

  13. neonsequitur says

    @ #6: Actually, lot of small independent operators are fracking wells on their own now, without subcontracting for larger companies. I know of several in my home county alone.

  14. says

    I have long thought that the best way to punish corporate wrongdoing is to have all fines be paid in corporate stock that the government would immediately sell.

    I don’t see how this would be any different than just making them pay cash. After all, the company can just buy its own stock back.

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