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AT&T Wireless Settlement
(Washington, DC - January 7, 2013) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and New Cingular Wireless (NCW) have reached an administrative settlement requiring the company to pay a civil penalty of $750,000 and spend $625,000 on environmental projects to resolve alleged reporting, planning and permitting violations at 332 legacy AT&T Wireless (AWS) sites now owned by NCW.
On this page:
- Civil Penalty
- Supplemental Environmental Projects
- Certification and Audits
- Background on EPA Investigation and Telecom Initiative
- Corporate History of AT&T Wireless
EPA and New Cingular Wireless (NCW) have reached an administrative agreement resolving noncompliance with:
- Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know (EPCRA) reporting requirements related to the presence of sulfuric acid and diesel (325 sites);
- inadequate or no Clean Water Act (CWA) Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plans (14 sites); and
- Clean Air Act (CAA) minor source permitting requirements (2 sites).
- The violations occurred at 332 legacy AT&T Wireless (AWS) sites located in 43 states. The violations occurred at cellular sites, transmitter sites, switching stations, and warehouses.
- The settlement agreement was approved by EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) on January 3, 2013 following the conclusion of a 30-day public notice and comment period.
Under the administrative settlement, NCW will pay a civil penalty of $750,000 for violations at legacy AWS sites. The penalty figure includes both gravity and economic benefit components for all violations.
Supplemental Environmental Projects
Under the administrative settlement, NCW will spend $625,000 in Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) providing hazardous materials awareness and health/safety training to building inspectors and fire fighters and procuring emergency response equipment such as fire-fighting equipment, gas meters, hazmat identification equipment, satellite phones and other emergency communications equipment at seven entities in four states: Florida, New York, Texas and California. The seven entities are:
- Palm Beach County (Florida) Fire Rescue-includes 37 municipalities that include rural and urban areas;
- Georges Lake Volunteer Fire Department, Putnam County, Florida- rural county in northeastern Florida;
- New York City Fire Department, New York and five boroughs of NYC;
- Yancey, Texas Volunteer Fire Department-rural areas 45 miles southwest of San Antonio, TX;
- San Diego, County California Office of Emergency Services- remote areas in the eastern part of the county;
- Bodega Bay, California Fire Protection District- rural western coastal Sonoma County; and
- Los Angeles, California Police Department- second largest city in the US.
Certification and Audits
Under the administrative settlement, NCW will: (a) provide a global NCW certification of EPCRA compliance at 1,356 sites; and (b) conduct comprehensive compliance audits of CAA and CWA/SPCC requirements at 1,361 and 41 legacy-AWS facilities, respectively, at an estimated cost of $2.5 million. NCW will pay stipulated penalties for all disclosed and corrected violations discovered via these audits.
Background on EPA Investigation and Telecom Initiative
In 2002, based on information provided to EPA Headquarters by officials in Region 5, EPA’s Special Litigation and Projects Division began an investigation of AT&T Wireless for potential violations of EPCRA Section 311 and 312 reporting requirements for sulfuric acid, diesel, and lead, of CWA requirements related to SPCC Plans (diesel), and CAA permitting requirements for backup generators under State Implementation Plan rules. EPA issued a detailed multimedia information request to AWS on December 2, 2002.
Since 1998, nearly 6,000 telecom facilities overall have been brought into compliance through over 30 settlements as part of EPA’s enforcement effort to improve compliance in the telecom sector.
Corporate History of AT&T Wireless
Despite the similarity of the names, AT&T Wireless Services, Inc. (“AWS” or “AT&T Wireless”) and AT&T Mobility are two separate and distinct entities with different histories. This settlement arises from an EPA investigation of AT&T Wireless that began, and has focused on acts occurring, before AT&T Wireless went through two subsequent acquisitions: first its acquisition in 2004 by an independent company, Cingular Wireless LLC (“Cingular Wireless”), and then the 2006 takeover of Cingular Wireless by the current AT&T.
EPA began investigating AWS in 2002 for violations of EPCRA, the Clean Water Act, and the Clean Air Act that originated prior to the 2004 acquisition of AWS by Cingular Wireless. At the time of the 2004 acquisition, Cingular Wireless was a joint venture owned by BellSouth and AT&T Inc.
After the 2004 acquisition, one of the AWS companies was renamed New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC (“New Cingular Wireless”). Cingular Wireless was thus the ultimate parent of New Cingular Wireless, the primary Respondent in this matter.
From late 2004 through early 2007, New Cingular Wireless and its affiliates owned or operated the legacy AWS sites that are the subject of this agreement, while marketing wireless services under the “Cingular Wireless” brand name.
In December 2006, AT&T Inc. acquired BellSouth and thus complete control over Cingular Wireless, as well as the subsidiary New Cingular Wireless. On January 8, 2007, New Cingular Wireless and many of its affiliates began doing business under the name AT&T Mobility.
For more information, contact:
Jeanne M. Duross
Special Litigation and Projects Division