Daily Court Reporter - News Power plant owner pleads guilty to failing to remove 224,000 square feet of asbestos before demolishing power plant for scrap metal
Power plant owner pleads guilty to failing to remove 224,000 square feet of asbestos before demolishing power plant for scrap metal
Mark Harris, 59, of Versailles, Ky., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to knowingly failing to remove asbestos in a South Point, Ohio electric power plant.
Benjamin C. Glassman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Jennifer Lynn, Special Agent in Charge, Criminal Enforcement Program, United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Laurie A. Stevenson, Director, Ohio EPA and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced the plea entered into yesterday afternoon before U.S. District Judge Susan J. Dlott.
Harris was the majority owner and operator of South Point Biomass Generation LLC. He acquired the coal burning electric power plant on Collins Avenue in South Point to convert it to a power generating plant that would use renewable energy.
The plant contained seven dormant coal-burning boilers along with their associated piping.
According to court documents, Harris commissioned an asbestos survey on the boiler room in 2008, which revealed nearly 224,000 square feet of materials containing asbestos.
Beginning in 2011 through October 2013, Harris and others removed approximately two and a half million pounds of metal from the facility and sold it as scrap. Harris knew significant portions of the metal removed were covered in asbestos.
He directed others to help him cut through the asbestos labeling on several pipes in order to obtain the scrap metal underneath. The asbestos was stripped from the metal while dry and left on each of the six floors of the power plant.
Harris pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Clean Air Act.
The parties involved have recommended two days in prison, 58 days of house arrest and 200 hours of community service as a sentence in this case. Judge Dlott will consider that recommendation at a future sentencing hearing.
“The defendant knew the rules regarding the legal removal of asbestos containing materials, but ignored them,” said Jennifer Lynn, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Ohio. “In this way, he threatened not only the environment but the safety of those working at the site and the general public. This case demonstrates that EPA and its partner agencies will not abide those who try to make money by breaking the law.”
“This man will answer for his misdeeds thanks to a successful collaboration between my office, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. EPA and the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” Ohio Attorney General Yost said. “Laws outlining the proper removal of asbestos are in place to protect human health and environment. People who choose to ignore these laws will face criminal consequences.”
U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the investigation of this case by the U.S. EPA, Ohio EPA, and Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), as well as Assistant United States Attorney Kyle J. Healey, who is representing the United States in this case.
About the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Ohio
Our mission is to protect and serve the citizens of the Southern District of Ohio through the ethical, vigorous and impartial enforcement of the laws of the United States, and in so doing to defend the national security, improve the safety and quality of life in our communities, protect the public funds and financial assets of the United States, maintain a courteous and professional working environment, and, with skill and integrity, seek to do justice in every matter
We are the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio, one of 94 United States Attorney’s Offices in the country. We are a part of the Department of Justice. Our District is comprised of 48 counties in the southern half of the state.
We represent the interests of the United States, both criminal and civil, in federal court. It is our responsibility to enforce federal criminal laws. We work to prevent terrorism and promote the nation’s security. We are committed to preventing crime, enforcing federal laws, and representing the rights and interests of the American people. We strive to ensure the fair and efficient administration of justice for all Americans.
We prosecute those individuals and organizations that violate federal criminal statutes. We work with a multitude of federal, state, and local agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Park Service, the U.S. Marshal’s Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Secret Service, The Ohio Highway Patrol, and multitude of local law enforcement agencies. We prosecute a wide-variety of offenses including domestic and foreign terrorism; child pornography and exploitation; civil rights violations; bank robbery and other violent crimes; firearms offenses; drug trafficking; health care fraud; immigration violations; public corruption; tax evasion; mail, bank and wire fraud; environmental offenses; and identity theft.
We also represent the United States in civil litigation, affirmative and defensive. As such, we sue individuals or entities who have violated federal civil laws. We also defend the interests of the United States when it, or one of its departments, agencies, or employees is sued, and we defend federal programs and agency actions.
We collect monies owed to the United States from forfeiture, restitution, and fines imposed as a part of the judgment in federal cases. We also pursue collection of civil debts owed to the United States, including student, small business, housing, and farm loans. Finally, we represent the interests of federal agencies in bankruptcy court.
Our district covers the bottom half of the state of Ohio.
Our district contains three staffed offices in Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton. The Columbus office is the headquarters of our District and is the largest, followed by Cincinnati then Dayton.
Date Published: February 15, 2019