Kasich: Ohio may need to change illegal dumping laws (WITH VIDEO)

by MARC KOVAC | CAPITAL BUREAU CHIEF Published:

Columbus -- Gov. John Kasich said the state may need to change permitting laws to prevent people who illegally dump oilfield waste into storm sewers from continuing their Ohio operations.

The governor offered the response to a question from a reporter asking whether the individuals involved in an incident in the Youngstown area should serve jail time if found guilty of the crime.

"We don't want people dumping fracking fluid in a storm water [drain]," Kasich told an audience of newspapermen and women in Columbus Feb. 13. "When they do, we're going to go after them. We have tough regulations, good regulations, probably the best in the country, so that if we do have mistakes … the public will know that we've been on top of it."

He added, "The energy industry did not write the regulations. They were written with the best safety of the environment in mind …"

Kasich spoke at the Ohio Newspapers Association's annual conference in suburban Columbus, outlining his biennial budget proposal and defending the school funding, sales tax and other reforms included in it.

He also talked about Ohio's growing energy sector, bolstered by horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, activities in eastern Ohio and about a recent dumping incident in the Youngstown area.

Earlier this month, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency announced the permanent revocation of permits of D&L Energy and Hardrock Excavating after investigators watched employees dump tens of thousands of gallons of oilfield waste into a storm sewer.

The revocation means D&L must cease its injection well operations, plus its storage at the Salt Springs Road site and brine hauling.

An investigation into the incident continues.

The move brought drew praise from environmental groups and the oil and gas industry, though at least one Democratic lawmaker remains concerned about the dumping and its subsequent disclosure to the public.

Rep. Bob Hagan, a Democrat from Youngstown, has urged criminal charges against the company's owner, and he's introduced legislation that would require greater disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing and allow local governments to enact their own standards and safety requirements for drilling.

Kasich said Feb. 13 that he was not involved in the administrative actions against D&L Energy and Hardrock and that he did not make recommendations about penalties.

Kasich said there was some question as to whether the state had authority to permanently revoke a company's license for egregious illegal dumping.

"If somebody went and did something bad and they cleaned it up, they'd get a permit back automatically," Kasich said. "My deal is, if you're a bad actor a number of times, we probably ought to be able to yank your permit or deny you one."

Kasich said the state agencies involved are reviewing those legal issues.

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.

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