Contractors Paid Billions in Environmental Penalties

The federal government’s largest contractors paid more than $38 billion in penalties for environmental violations over the last 21 years, according to the Project On Government Oversight’s Federal Contractor Misconduct Database (FCMD).

In honor of Earth Day, POGO elaborates on some of the more recent cases of environmental misconduct. Since 1995, POGO has tracked almost 400 instances of environmental violations by the top federal contractors in cases brought by local, state, federal, and international government agencies, non-governmental groups, and individuals.

The FCMD is a compilation of misconduct and alleged misconduct by federal contractors categorized into 18 different types, including environmental. The FCMD’s environmental violation penalty total is understated due to the nearly 40 instances in which the penalty amount is either unknown or undisclosed. An additional 38 instances remain pending.

Following are some of the more recent environmental instances in the FCMD, updated regularly by POGO.

This month, Exxon Mobil agreed to pay nearly $11 million in a settlement with the state of New York over oil spill and petroleum cleanup costs across the state:

Exxon Mobil agreed to pay $10.75 million to reimburse the New York Environmental Protection and Spill Compensation Fund for oil spill cleanup and petroleum contamination removal at eight locations across the state. The spill sites were operated as gas stations, some of which were in operation as early as the 1930s. Exxon Mobil also agreed to assume all future remediation activities at four of the eight sites or reimburse the Oil Spill Fund for any additional remediation expenses incurred.

Exxon Mobil is involved in another complaint filed in March alleging violations of the Clean Air Act at its Baton Rouge, Louisiana, chemical plant.

It was announced in February that Honeywell International will pay an undetermined amount to fund the cleanup of toxic chemicals in Hoosick Falls, New York:

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) traced the contamination of the town’s drinking water with perfluorooctanoic acid to a factory operated by several companies over the years, including, from 1986 to 1996, Honeywell predecessor AlliedSignal Corporation.

Around the same time, AT&T, Exelis, and Lockheed Martin agreed to jointly reimburse the state of Alaska up to $1.7 million to clean up chemical contamination in the soil and groundwater:

The State of Alaska brought a lawsuit under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) seeking reimbursement of its costs cleaning up chemical contaminants at the Joe Parent Vocational Education Center School in Aniak, Alaska, located on the former site of a U.S. Air Force communications facility. The state sought reimbursement from the operations and maintenance contractors at the site: AT&T (as successor to RCA Alascom), Exelis Arctic Services (the new name of ITT Arctic Services), and Lockheed Martin (as successor in interest to RCA Service Company). RCA Service operated the site from approximately 1960 to 1969, ITT operated the site from approximately 1969 until 1976, and RCA Alascom operated the site between approximately 1976 and 1979. During that time, according to the state, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and TCE (trichloroethylene) were released to the environment and contaminated soil and groundwater. AT&T, Exelis, and Lockheed Martin agreed to jointly reimburse the state up to $1.7 million in past and future costs.

And late last year, the Justice Department announced that General Electric agreed to pay $2.25 million to remediate federal and state environmental violations at its Waterford, New York, facility:

General Electric agreed to pay a $2.25 million civil penalty to resolve a complaint alleging violations of federal and state environmental laws at a manufacturing facility that it owned and operated in Waterford, New York, from 1947 to 2007. GE disposed of hazardous waste at the facility in a rotary kiln incinerator equipped with an automatic waste feed cut-off system designed to shut down the incinerator if GE was not in compliance with the Clean Air Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. On at least 1,859 occasions from September 2006 to February 2007, GE employees manually overrode the cut-off system, thereby potentially exposing the public and the environment to harmful hazardous air pollutants.

Explore the FCMD for additional instances of environmental misconduct and more.