FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE |
THURSDAY OCTOBER 2, 2003
EPA: (202) 564-4355|
DOJ: (202) 514-2008
TDD: (202) 514-1888
U.S. REACHES SETTLEMENT WITH ALLTEL CORPORATION
FOR ENVIRONMENTAL VIOLATIONS
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency today announced that ALLTEL Corporation, a leading provider of communications and information services, has signed an agreement to carry out cross-cutting environmental compliance audits at its facilities nationwide. The agreement settles claims that ALLTEL violated the Clean Air Act (CAA), Clean Water Act (CWA), and/or the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) at 205 of its facilities in 18 states.
ALLTEL provides wireless, local telephone, long-distance, Internet and high-speed data services to residential and business customers in 26 states. In this action, the government charged that ALLTEL Corporation applied late or failed to obtain permits to construct or install standby generators at 105 facilities in two states as required by CAA state implementation plans; violated SPCC plan requirements at 45 facilities in 13 states by failing to prepare plans as required by the CWA; and either failed to submit or submitted late reports to states informing them of the presence of sulfuric acid and/or diesel fuel, as required by EPCRA, at 56 facilities in 14 states.
In addition to the environmental compliance audits that will occur at over 7,500 facilities, the company will pay a $1,058,000 civil penalty under the settlement filed in the U.S. District Court in Little Rock.
This settlement follows EPA’s compliance incentive effort under its Audit Policy, which seeks to ensure compliance with environmental laws by the telecommunications industry. Unlike many of its competitors, ALLTEL failed to self-disclose its violations under the policy and therefore did not receive the reductions in penalty that the policy provides.
“Given the importance of this type of initiative in ensuring compliance and providing a level playing field to those companies who elect to participate, we feel it incumbent to pursue those companies who fail to comply,” said John Peter Suarez, the Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
Since EPA reached its first Audit Policy settlement with a telecommunications company in 1998, more than 25 telecommunications businesses have disclosed violations of the EPCRA, CWA, CAA, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
Companies that have disclosed violations and corrected them have brought more than 430 facilities into compliance with the Clean Air Act regulatory requirements. This has enhanced facility and emergency response personnel’s capabilities to react to hazardous chemical emergencies at almost 2,900 facilities, with over 700 facilities instituting spill prevention, control, and countermeasure plans where none existed.
Under the CAA, states are required to take steps to ensure that ambient air quality standards are met, including requiring sources to obtain permits before constructing certain stationary sources of air pollution. The CWA's Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure requires facilities to prepare plans that help prevent or mitigate spills and keep hazardous chemicals from polluting streams and other water bodies. EPCRA was enacted to help states and local communities protect public health, safety and the environment from chemical hazards. Disclosure of the presence of hazardous substances ensures the safety of emergency personnel and first-responders in chemical releases.
The proposed settlement will be published in the Federal Register for 30 days for public comment, and must be approved by the Court.