BEAVER, Pa. — An appellate court will now decide if a Greene County man who dumped wastewater in western Pennsylvania streams will have to serve time in jail.
Initially a county judge handed down probation as his sentence.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office has asked the Pennsylvania Superior Court to order a resentencing for Robert Allan Shipman, 51, of New Freeport.
The Attorney General’s appeal in the case was one of more than 20 appeals three Superior Court judges heard Tuesday during a special two-day session in Beaver County.
Over a period of seven years, Shipman, through his business, Allan’s Waste Water Service, illegally dumped thousands of gallons of wastewater in different areas in Allegheny, Lawrence, Greene, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties. Shipman also stole more than $250,000 from the businesses that paid him to dispose of the wastewater.
Shipman was initially indicted on 200 charges and pleaded guilty Feb. 9, 2012, to felony counts of theft by deception, receiving stolen property, tampering with public records or information, unlawful conduct, criminal conspiracy and a misdemeanor charge of pollution of waters.
State prosecutors said Shipman took waste -- including production water from a natural gas drilling operations, sludge from sewage treatment plants and grease water from restaurants -- and used a method called “cocktailing” to mix the waste with other waste that could be easily dumped.
Shipman charged the businesses for disposing of more wastewater for them than he actually did, prosecutors said.
Deputy Attorney General Amy Carnicella asked Greene County Judge Farley Toothman to impose a sentence of nine to 16 months in jail, which is within the standard sentence range for the most serious charge, theft by deception, according to a court motion filed by Carnicella.
Toothman sentenced Shipman to seven years’ probation along with ordering him to pay restitution and fines and do five hours of community service each week with a water conservation group during his probation.
According to an article in The (Uniontown) Herald-Standard, Toothman was “moved to tears” as he sentenced Shipman.
“A probationary sentence will have absolutely no deterrent effect and sends a clear message to the business community, including the oil and gas industry, that enforcement of environmental crimes is little more than a cost of doing business,” Carnicella’s motion said.
The Attorney General’s office asked Toothman to resentence Shipman. Toothman said he would not resentence Shipman and in a written support of that decision said, “It appears that the Commonwealth wants Shipman imprisoned, believing that jailing him will deter others from polluting our waterways. History proves this motive wrong and improper.”
Prosecutors then appealed the case to the Superior Court.
In that appeal, the Attorney General’s office said the “sentencing court’s orders and opinions relating to sentencing reflect a clear hostility toward the attorney for the Commonwealth and toward anyone charged with enforcing the environmental laws … .”
The Superior Court judges finish hearing arguments today in a total of 51 cases. They will make rulings in each of the cases and issue their written opinion.