Hart oil company admits to violating environmental laws

Published 2:12 pm Friday, January 19, 2024

By Justin Story, Bowling Green Daily News

An oil company based in Hart County has admitted in court to violating the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

Logsdon Valley Oil Inc. pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court to a count of violating an underground injection control program.

The company was represented in court by president Ellen Stinson and attorney Brian Butler.

A federal grand jury indicted Logsdon Valley and company operator Charles Leonard Stinson in 2021, accusing them of willfully injecting fluids derived from oil and gas production into a sinkhole in Hart County on Sept. 13, 2019, that was not permitted for injection, which federal prosecutors said endangered a groundwater source.

According to federal court records, an anonymous source contacted the Environmental Protection Agency in 2019 and alleged that Charles Stinson was illegally injecting brine water from oil and gas production into an non-permitted well.

Inspectors arrived at the site on Sept. 13, 2019, to examine a tank at the site meant to store the fluids from oil production.

A plea agreement said that one of the valves on the tank was closed, indicating that no fluids were entering the injection line attached to the well.

Another valve on the tank was open to a PVC line, indicating that the fluids were being injected somewhere.

“The inspectors also noted that the contents of the tank were emitting a strong, gaseous odor,” the plea agreement, entered Thursday, said. “The inspectors followed the black PVC line, draped downhill from the area where the tank was situated, into the woods nearby.”

Inspectors then found fluids spurting from the end of the line and pouring into a sinkhole.

“The inspectors also observed dark staining of the vegetation in the area from the produced fluids,” the plea agreement said. “The Kentucky Emergency Response Team was notified of the release.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Kentucky will recommend that Logsdon Oil be made to pay a $100,000 fine and agree to EPA inspections at the agency’s discretion.

The statutory maximum fine that can be imposed is $500,000.

Sentencing has been set for April 25.

This marks the second time the company has been accused of violating the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Logsdon Valley Oil, Charles Stinson and former oil well operator Ralph Dowell were indicted in 2012 on a count of conspiring to violate the Safe Drinking Water Act.

They were accused of improperly conveying fluids generated during oil and gas production without a permit into sinkholes and wells from 2008 to 2012 in Hart County, with prosecutors specifying two instances of illegal injection on two separate oil leases in 2010.

Stinson, Dowell and Logsdon Oil were accused of configuring piping to inject produced brine water from a tank battery into sinkholes, which the government said presented a threat to groundwater quality.

After pleading guilty, Stinson was ordered to pay a $45,000 fine in that case and was placed on probation for two years.