Over $1 Million Paid to Settle EPA’s Most Recent Enforcement Action Against a Telecommunications Provider
EPA continues to pursue telecommunications companies that fail to bring their facilities into compliance with environmental laws. Earlier this month, EPA filed a complaint against Alltel Corporation for violations of three environmental laws. The complaint sought damages of up to $27,500 per day per violation for each switch or cell tower. The resulting settlement was in excess of $1 million, which does not include the expense of bringing the facilities into compliance.
Environmental Compliance: Why should every telecommunications company do an environmental audit?
Don’t let EPA catch you by surprise. Telecommunication emergency power generators and back-up batteries are regulated by four federal environmental laws: the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Resource Conservation and Recover Act, and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. EPA has recently assessed penalties for environmental violations at thousands of facilities owned by over 20 telecommunications companies.
Do you need to take action now, even if EPA has not come knocking at your door?
Yes, because it may save you millions of dollars in penalties. Many companies have audited their facilities, disclosed their violations and then settled with EPA. As a result, EPA waived millions of dollars in gravity-based penalties and required payment only of penalties that reflected the company’s economic benefit from the noncompliance. Companies that violated environmental laws and failed to self-disclose paid huge gravity-based penalties. You will realize the significant reduction in penalties only if you comply with EPA’s Audit Policy when you report and correct violations.
Why does EPA’s Audit Policy provide for reduced penalties?
EPA wants to encourage systematic evaluation of environmental compliance and self-reporting. To encourage self-reporting, the Agency developed its Audit Policy, which sharply reduces or eliminates penalties for companies that voluntarily identify, promptly disclose and correct violations. EPA has very specific requirements that must be met to qualify for settlement under the Audit Policy. Many states have developed their own Audit Policies that provide benefits similar to the EPA Audit Policy.
A word of caution! You should develop a plan to report and correct violations before you determine if you are in violation of environmental laws. The Audit Policy requires that you disclose violations within 21 days from the date the violation is “discovered.” You must then correct violations within 60 days. Given these deadlines, it is best to develop a plan before you begin to evaluate your company’s compliance. EPA is also willing to work with companies before an audit to develop inspection and correction schedules suitable for multi-site audits. Without a plan, you may not meet the Audit Policy deadlines and may be subject to much greater penalties for any violations you discover.
Why Choose Davis Wright Tremaine?
We’ve been there. We have completed very successful environmental audits for telecommunications companies involving a variety of environmental issues at facilities nationwide. We have developed positive working relationships with EPA counsel and staff that oversee telecommunications compliance. Our environmental lawyers have experience working on a wide range of issues for telecommunications companies. We can help you evaluate the status of your company’s environmental compliance, help you develop an audit plan right for your company and make it work.