Foster gets $1K fine, jail time for dumping sludge in Warren Twp.
TOWANDA - Josh Foster of Temple, Ga., was sentenced Thursday to 14 days to 18 months in prison for dumping 800 gallons of a gas drilling waste on Dec. 1 in state Gamelands 219 in Warren Township.
Foster, 27, was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine as well as the costs of prosecution.
Foster pled guilty on April 5 to the second-degree misdemeanor of criminal mischief in connection with the dumping incident.
Foster will get credit for the 14 days of jail time that he has already served, said Bradford County Court Judge Jeffrey Smith, who sentenced Foster.
The judge suspended the commencement of Foster's sentence until noon on May 22.
The delay of several days will give Foster time to apply for parole, District Attorney Dan Barrett said after the sentencing.
Barrett said he expected that Foster will be granted parole immediately and will not have to serve any additional time in jail.
"I expect he will be able to apply for parole before the (May 22 commencement date) and will receive parole without returning to prison," Barrett said.
"He won't have to go back to jail" unless he violates the terms of his parole, the district attorney said.
Foster's attorney, Chris Jones of Towanda, had asked the judge to sentence Foster to probation, which is what the Bradford County Probation Department had recommended for a sentence.
Jones pointed out that Foster has no criminal record, and has completed high school and two years of college.
Foster "is not to be excused" for what he did, but he was "inexperienced, overworked, and really following the actions (directions) of a superior."
Foster had told the Bradford County Probation Department during its pre-sentence investigation that his foreman had told him to dump the sludge, Bradford County District Attorney Daniel Barrett explained after the hearing.
At the time, Foster's employer was RW Products of Wheeling, W.Va., Jones said.
Judge Smith said that Foster was in a bind, since his employment depended on him taking directions from his superiors at work.
Nevertheless, it is not an acceptable defense to say that he was doing what his superior told him to do, the judge said, pointing out that Nazis who said they were "just following orders" were prosecuted at the Nuremberg trials.
District Attorney Barrett had argued against sentencing Foster to probation, saying that the sentence should include jail time, in order to serve as a deterrent.
People need to know that they will receive jail time for the kind of illegal dumping that Foster did, Barrett said after the hearing.
Barrett also said that Foster had initially denied to the police that he had dumped the waste.
As part of a plea agreement between Foster and the Commonwealth, the three other charges that had been lodged against Foster - a third-degree felony of criminal mischief, a third-degree misdemeanor of scattering rubbish, and a third-degree misdemeanor of unlawful disposal of solid waste - were dismissed by Judge Smith at his sentencing.
Foster was laid off from his job at RW Products in February, the judge said.
Asked whether there is any ongoing criminal investigation against Foster's foreman, Barrett declined to comment, other than to say that if the foreman did what Foster said he did, he would have his day in court.
Barrett said after the sentencing that Foster was not ordered to pay restitution, because RW Products and Talisman Energy had already paid for the cleanup of the sludge "at a considerable cost."
The dumped substance had come from a Talisman Energy gas drilling site located elsewhere in Warren Township.
RW Products has also been fined $21,029 by the state Department of Environmental Protection for the dumping incident.
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Dan Spadoni has said that the dumped substance was "drilling mud and rock cuttings." The dumped substance is "classified as residual waste, which is non-hazardous industrial waste," Spadoni has said.
Talisman Energy spokesman Natalie Cox has said that the drilling mud was a "mineral-oil based fluid used in the drilling process" to aid in the drilling.
Cox has also said the dumped substance was not hazardous to the environment.
James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: firstname.lastname@example.org