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MCI WORLDCOM INC. MUST CONDUCT NATIONWIDE CROSS-CUTTING ENVIRONMENTAL AUDITS UNDER SETTLEMENT WITH U.S. EPA
Release Date: 10/14/99
FOR RELEASE: THURSDAY, OCTOBER 14, 1999
MCI WORLDCOM INC. MUST CONDUCT NATIONWIDE CROSS-CUTTING
ENVIRONMENTAL AUDITS UNDER SETTLEMENT WITH U.S. EPAOn Sept. 30, EPA proposed a settlement with MCI WorldCom Inc., to conduct environmental compliance audits of its facilities nationwide, and pay a penalty of $625,000 to resolve a total of 216 violations of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), Clean Water Act (CWA), and Clean Air Act (CAA) at 153 of its facilities in 29 states and the District of Columbia. EPCRA was enacted to help states and local communities protect public heath, safety and the environment from chemical hazards. The CWA’s Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) requires facilities to prepare plans that help prevent or mitigate spills and keep hazardous chemicals from polluting streams and other water bodies. Under the CAA, states are required to take steps to ensure that ambient air quality standards are met, including requiring sources to obtain permits before constructing certain stationary sources of air pollution. The proposed settlement comes after a 15-month investigation of MCI Communications Corp. (WorldCom Inc. merged with MCI in September 1998 and became known thereafter as MCI WorldCom Inc.). The government charged that MCI WorldCom Inc., failed to submit reports to states informing them of the presence of sulfuric acid, diesel fuel and/or ethylene glycol, as required by EPCRA, at 47 facilities in 17 states; applied late or failed to obtain permits to construct or install standby generators at 67 facilities in seven states as required by CAA state implementation plans; and violated SPCC plan requirements at 46 facilities in 25 states and the District of Columbia by failing to prepare plans as required by the CWA. In contrast to MCI WorldCom Inc., seven other telecommunications companies were granted relief from civil penalties for voluntarily disclosing and promptly correcting a total of 742 environmental violations that occurred at more than 200 of their facilities across the nation. The settlements were reached under EPA’s “Audit Policy”(Incentives for Self-Policing: Discovery, Disclosure, Correction and Prevention of Violations, 60 Fed. Reg. 66706 (December 22, 1995), which is designed to reduce or eliminate penalties for companies that voluntarily audit, promptly disclose and correct violations. Under the proposed settlements, the companies will pay a total of $49,955, which is the amount they saved for delayed noncompliance. The Agency has proposed to waive more than $1,942,600 in potential gravity-based penalties that otherwise would have been assessed. The companies and their violations are: US West Communications Inc., EPCRA and SPCC; BellSouth Corp., EPCRA and SPCC; AirTouch Communications, EPCRA; Western Wireless Corp. and VoiceStream Wireless Corp., EPCRA and SPCC; The Bell Atlantic Companies, EPCRA and SPCC; and Paging Network Inc., CAA, EPCRA and SPCC. Notices of the proposed SPCC settlements were published in the Federal Register Oct. 13, for a 30-day public comment period and must be approved by the Environmental Appeals Board (EAB). The CAA and EPCRA proposed settlements also must be approved by the EAB but are not subject to public review and comments.
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