KY oil well operators sentenced for SDWA violations

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ATLANTA, GA, Jan. 28, 2014 -- On Friday, Jan. 17, two Kentucky oil well operators were sentenced in United States District Court for continued violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) for the continued conspiracy to inject fluids, without a permit, into sinkholes and wells.

Charles L. Stinson, 75, of Horse Cave, Ky., and Ralph Dowell, 75, of Edmonton, Ky., operators of Logsdon Valley Oil Co. Inc., were sentenced to two years' probation. Stinson and the oil company were ordered to pay fines for the violation, which occurred in Hart County, Ky., from March 13, 2008, through July 18, 2012. The two men were sentenced by Senior Judge Joseph H. McKinley Jr.

According to the plea agreement, Stinson and Logsdon Valley Oil Co. Inc., agreed to a fine of $45,000 to be paid at sentencing. Further, the terms indicate that Stinson was to pay the fine personally, with $25,000 paid to the Commonwealth of Kentucky, $10,000 to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and $10,000 to the United States. Also, as part of the terms, he agreed to provide adequate documentation to EPA that the Stinson #6 (the well used for illegal injection) is regulated to protect underground sources of drinking water from contamination.

Stinson and Dowell were charged in an eight-count federal Superseding Indictment, on August 15, 2012. They pleaded guilty to violating a requirement of an applicable underground injection control program. Specifically, they configured piping to inject produced brine water (fluids brought to the surface in connection with oil production) from the tank battery to sinkholes, and injected produced brine water into one of them, and conveyed fluids into the sinkholes, in violation of the SDWA, Title 42, United States Code, Section 300h-2(b)(2) and Title 40, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 144.11.

In furtherance of the conspiracy, on May 24, 2010, the defendants improperly conveyed fluids into a sinkhole at the Carter-Cheney (McGee) lease; and on May 24, 2010, they improperly conveyed fluids into sinkholes on Payton #7 East lease, both located in Hart County.

"America's environmental laws are designed to protect clean and safe water sources," said Maureen O'Mara, special agent overseeing EPA's criminal enforcement program in Kentucky. "The defendants ignored orders to stop discharging hazardous wastewater into a nearby sinkhole, thereby threatening groundwater quality by allowing harmful materials to enter below-ground aquifers. Today's sentencing demonstrates that EPA and its partner agencies will actively pursue those who flout environmental laws designed to protect the public."

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