City of Gloucester Enters into Agreement to Resolve Clean Water Act Violations Related to Discharge of Undertreated Sewage into Massachusetts Bay
BOSTON – The former instrument and control technician at Berkshire Power Plant in Agawam, Mass., was sentenced yesterday for tampering with environmental monitors in violation of the Clean Air Act.
Scott Paterson, 46, of Manchester, Conn., was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Mark G. Mastroianni to one year of probation. In March 2015, Patterson pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Air Act and conspiracy. On May 31, 2017, the former operations and maintenance manager, Fred Baker, was sentenced to 30 months of probation for this role in the scheme.
From 2008 to March 2011, Paterson, at the direction of senior managers at the plant, tampered with the plant’s Continuous Emissions Monitoring System (CEMS). The CEMS is an environmental monitoring system, required by federal laws and permits, which continuously samples a power plant’s emissions and measures and records the concentration of regulated pollutants to monitor compliance with pollution emission limits. The purpose of the tampering was to delay repairs and avoid reporting to federal and state regulators that the plant was, at times, releasing certain pollutants, specifically nitrogen oxides, in excess of the plant’s Clean Air Act permit limits.
Initially, the tampering involved lowering monitors by a constant rate – approximately .5 parts per million (ppm) - below the known value. These constant adjustments did not trigger any alarms or warnings and were thus usually maintained in the system through approximately mid-March 2011.
In the summer of 2009 and 2010 the plant underwent an independent annual audit. Prior to the audit, Paterson’s supervisor, Baker, directed Paterson to take out the adjustments in the CEMS monitors and to re-instate them after the audit. Berkshire Power Plant reported the results of the audit to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
By 2010, this .5 ppm adjustment was not sufficient enough to allow the plant to run at full power and comply with the facility’s Clean Air Act permit. Rather than making necessary repairs, Paterson, again at the direction of Baker, lowered the CEMS readings even more to avoid reporting pollution emissions in excess of the hourly limits or hitting warning levels.
In 2015, the Berkshire Power Plant was charged jointly by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office for tampering with its air pollution monitoring equipment and falsely reporting data to environmental and energy regulators regarding its emissions levels and its availability to produce power.
In March 2017, Berkshire Power Company and Power Plant Management Services, the owners and operators of the plant, respectively, were ordered to pay $7.25 million in fines, penalties and other payments for their role in tampering with air pollution emissions equipment.
Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb; Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey; Tyler Amon, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division in Boston; and Commissioner Martin Suuberg of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, made the announcement. Assistance with the investigation was provided by the Massachusetts Environmental Crimes Strike Force (an interagency investigative team dedicated to developing the most significant environmental enforcement cases) and the Massachusetts Environmental Police. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Miron Bloom of Weinreb’s Criminal Division prosecuted the federal case with the assistance of Dianne Chabot, USEPA Criminal Enforcement Counsel and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.