AT&T, Calif. Reach Settlement on Fuel-Tank Lawsuit
OAKLAND, Calif. ---- California Attorney General Bill Lockyer this week announced that AT&T has agreed to pay $25 million to settle a lawsuit that charged the company with repeatedly failing to test and repair its underground storage tanks. The lawsuit also alleged that AT&T failed to shut down tanks with inadequate pipe systems. No tank leaks were ever discovered, however. In a statement released by AT&T, the company said it settled the lawsuit to avoid costly litigation and to maintain good relations with regulatory agencies in the state. The company has maintained it complied with the law.The settlement is the second highest in the nation related to violations of underground storage tank laws. The lawsuit alleged violations at AT&T’s 531 underground facilities throughout the state. Nearly 50 of the non-compliant systems have been used for motor vehicle fuel, which contains MTBE. “An intensive investigation conducted together with local prosecutors and regulators concluded that AT&T repeatedly failed to comply with laws that require the company to inspect its underground tanks and make repairs to faulty systems,” said Lockyer. “Every day they postponed inspections and repairs, they risked catastrophic leaks and spills of MTBE and other toxic chemicals into our environment and surrounding communities."The lawsuit also alleged that AT&T not only failed to meet inspection deadlines at many of its facilities, but also failed to report containment system problems to state and local safety regulators. Furthermore, the prosecutors said they found that when AT&T discovered problems, it delayed repairs and continued to operate the systems that had potential to pollute the environment. The complaint and settlement, filed in San Joaquin Superior Court, charge AT&T with 17 violations of California’s Health and Safety Code and Unfair Competition Law. To resolve the violations, AT&T will pay $25 million to cover penalties and costs, fund public projects, and make environmental improvements.Lockyer was joined in the lawsuit by six county district attorneys and one city attorney: Thomas Orloff, Alameda County; Steve Cooley, Los Angeles County; Dean Flippo, Monterey County; James Willett, San Joaquin County; Bonnie Dumanis, San Diego County; David W. Paulson, Solano County; and San Diego City Attorney Michael J. Aguirre.