Santa Barbara District Attorney Joyce Dudley | Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

AT&T settled with prosecutors statewide for $5.9 million regarding hazardous materials violations, including in Santa Barbara County, due to unreported batteries at cell-phone towers and other facilities. Santa Barbara District Attorney Joyce E. Dudley announced the settlement on November 15. The settlement is the largest amount ever awarded statewide for this kind of environmental violation.

Dudley stated her office’s Consumer and Environmental Protection Unit and a group of prosecutors statewide had filed a civil action after AT&T failed to report batteries at cell-phone towers and other facilities in a timely manner to the California Environmental Reporting System (CERS). The batteries were used to operate emergency generators across more than 3,200 sites in California. While no evidence of environmental damage was known, reports of the presence of hazardous materials by businesses to CERS are mandated by law. This allows crucial information to be shared with firefighters, health officials, public safety offices, and regulatory agencies to protect the public, first responders, and the environment. AT&T self-reported the violations, to its credit, Dudley said.

The vast majority of the sum, $5,650,000, will go to civil penalties. From that amount, $613,479 goes to the Santa Barbara County DA’s Office and $110,625 to County Environmental Health Services. Another $250,000 will be used as a Supplemental Environmental Project to the CUPA Forum Environmental Protection Trust Fund — CUPA stands for Certified Unified Program Agencies, which implements a state Health & Safety Code program. Along with the settlement, another provision in the Stipulated Final Judgment was an injunction requiring AT&T to comply with environmental laws and regulations.

Correction: The headline was corrected to state the settlement was with district attorneys, not attorneys general.

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