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Oil Well Operators in Hart County, Ky., Sentenced for Violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act

Release Date: 01/17/2014
Contact Information: Davina Marraccini (EPA), 404-562-8293, marraccini.davina@epa.gov; Stephanie Collins (DOJ), 502-582-5911, stephanie.collins@usdoj.gov

ATLANTA – Two oil well operators in Hart County, and Logsdon Valley Oil Co. Inc., were sentenced today in United States District Court by Senior Judge Joseph H. McKinley Jr., for continued violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act, announced David J. Hale, United States Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky.

Charles L. Stinson, 75, of Horse Cave, Kentucky, and Ralph Dowell, 75, of Edmonton, Kentucky, operators of Logsdon Valley Oil Co. Inc., were sentenced to two years’ probation. Stinson and Logsdon Valley Oil Co. Inc., were ordered to pay fines for the continued conspiracy to inject fluids, without a permit, into sinkholes and wells, located in Hart County, Kentucky, from March 13, 2008 through July 18, 2012, in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

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

Stinson and Dowell were charged in an eight count federal Superseding Indictment, on August 15, 2012, with conspiring to violate the Safe Drinking Water Act. 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 a sinkhole, and conveyed fluids into sinkholes, in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act, 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, Kentucky.

“America’s environmental laws are designed to protect clean and safe water sources,” said Maureen O’Mara, Special Agent in Charge of 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.”

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Joshua Judd, and it was investigated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency/Criminal Investigations Division and the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection.

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