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AT&T settles environmental protection case for nearly $6 million

Santa Barbara County
Posted at 10:35 AM, Nov 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-15 15:38:07-05

District Attorney Joyce E. Dudley announced on Tuesday, November 15 that a civil action against AT&T concerning hazardous materials violations in Santa Barbara County and across the state has been settled for nearly $6 million.

The suit involved the Consumer and Environmental Protection Unit, as part of a statewide team of prosecutors, and the $5.9 million settlement is the largest ever awarded statewide for this type of environmental violation.

The case centered around the telecommunication company’s failure to report hazardous materials (batteries) at cell phone towers and other facilities to the California Environmental Reporting System.

Reporting the presence of hazardous materials is mandated by law as part of a business’s requirement to submit a Hazardous Materials Business Plan to the California Environmental Reporting System.

The location, type, quantity, and health risks of the materials must be reported. That information is then shared with firefighters, health officials, public safety offices, and regulatory agencies, which in turn is crucial to protect the public, first responders, and the environment.

The batteries in question were used to operate emergency generators at more than 3,200 sites across the state of California. Although the People had no evidence of damage to the environment at any of these sites, AT&T is still liable for failing to report the presence of hazardous materials.

In a statement released Tuesday, an AT&T spokesperson said, “We discovered and self-reported this bookkeeping error more than three years ago, and we have worked closely with state officials to make sure a mistake like this does not happen again.”

The D.A.'s office confirms that AT&T self-reported the violations and cooperated with statewide investigations including those conducted by the Santa Barbara County Certified Unified Program Agency and the District Attorney’s Office.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a statement from AT&T.