AT&T cell tower simulation, Lompoc, July 2020, contributed.jpg

A simulation, provided by AT&T for a Santa Barbara County Planning Commission hearing in July 2020, shows how a new cell tower, right of center, in Lompoc would appear from Albireo Avenue, where the closest residences were located. AT&T just settled a civil action for failing to disclose batteries used at cell towers statewide.

A statewide team of prosecutors, including Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office Consumer and Environmental Protection Unit, has settled a civil action against AT&T over hazardous-materials violations in the county and elsewhere across the state.

District Attorney Joyce E. Dudley said the $5.9 million settlement is the largest ever awarded statewide for that type of environmental violation — the failure to report hazardous materials.

A stipulated final judgment and injunction entered Monday calls for $5.65 million in civil penalties, which includes $613,479 to the District Attorney’s Office and $110,625 to County Environmental Health Services, and another $250,000 as a supplemental environmental project to the Certified Unified Program Agency Forum Environmental Protection Trust Fund.

The injunction requires AT&T to comply with environmental laws and regulations.

Dudley said the civil action accused AT&T of failing to report the batteries used to operate emergency generators at more than 3,200 cell-phone towers and other facilities across the state to the California Environmental Reporting System.

Although prosecutors had no evidence of environmental damage at any of the sites, AT&T is still liable for failing to report the hazardous materials.

Dudley said to its credit, 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.

“Having a complete understanding about the presence of hazardous materials is a vital aspect of public safety and emergency preparation,” Dudley said. “Whether handled by a small business or a large corporation, these materials can present great danger, and the law must be equally enforced to protect us all.”

California businesses that handle 55 gallons, 200 cubic feet or 500 pounds of hazardous materials must submit a hazardous materials business plan to CERS that includes the location, type, quantity and health risk of the materials.

That information is then shared with firefighters, health officials, public safety offices and regulatory agencies to protect the public and first responders as well as the environment.

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News Editor

Mike Hodgson is news editor at the Santa Ynez Valley News, where he writes about local government, special events and the people who live in the Valley. He has been a photographer, writer, news editor and managing editor at weekly newspapers since 1972

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