EP Energy, Contractors and Engineers to Pay $3.25 Million after Illegally Overfilling Agawam, West Springfield Landfill
Company and Participants Allegedly Hid Their Actions to Avoid Paying Permitting Fees, Taxes
BOSTON — A Massachusetts electric generating company, along with its contractors and engineers, have agreed to pay a total of $3.25 million to settle allegations that they allegedly overfilled an ash landfill and three wastewater treatment basins in Agawam and West Springfield for extra profit, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.
The final judgment, filed Friday in Suffolk Superior Court, resolves claims that in an effort to avoid close to $200,000 in permitting fees after overfilling the site with about 225,000 tons of mildly contaminated recyclable materials, the defendants falsely certified to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) that the work was done properly to avoid liability – violating the state’s False Claim Act. According to the complaint, the site was overfilled 11.5 feet above the permitted elevation.
The defendants also allegedly failed to pay the required per-ton tax on the solid waste illegally dumped at the site. After discovering the violations, MassDEP referred the case to the AG’s Office.
“We believe these defendants blatantly violated the law by overfilling this site, pocketing the extra revenues, and making false statements about their work to the MassDEP,” AG Coakley said. “This settlement demonstrates our resolve to punish environmental violators, especially when they try to cover up illegal conduct that costs cities and towns essential tax revenue, and threatens the public health and safety of residents.”
“This was an egregious attempt to circumvent the regulatory and permitting process for short-term profit,” said MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell. “These parties knowingly violated their state permit limits and requirements and attempted to cover-up their violations.”
“This settlement is an example of how state and local government working collaboratively benefits everyone,” said Agawam Mayor Richard A. Cohen. “The Attorney General and her staff were inclusive in consulting with the mayor’s office and considered Agawam’s best interest throughout the entire process. Therefore, I am pleased with the outcome as it remedies inappropriate actions by the defendants.”
The defendants in this case are the current site owner, EP Energy Massachusetts, LLC (formerly known as NAEA Energy Massachusetts, LLC; Consolidated Edison Energy Massachusetts, Inc.; and Consolidated Edison Energy Massachusetts, LLC); the site contractor, Cover Technologies, Inc.; a principal of the contractor, Kenneth A. Foley of Holyoke; the site engineering company, Woodard & Curran Inc.; site engineers, Alan A. Benevides of Marlborough and John J. Borgesi of Newton, New Hampshire; the former parent corporation of the owner, Consolidated Edison Development, Inc.; and current EP Energy environmental manager, Alan J. Douglass of Wilbraham.
The settlement requires the defendants to pay approximately $2.68 million of civil penalties to the Commonwealth and back taxes to Agawam and West Springfield totaling approximately $570,000.
The site is located mostly in the northern section of Agawam with a small portion in West Springfield. EP Energy must also restore the site according to a Corrective Action Design permit issued by the MassDEP, requiring daily onsite monitoring and inspection.
This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Fred Augenstern of Attorney General Coakley’s Environmental Protection Division. Assisting him are Monique Cascarano and Nancy Ward of Coakley’s Civil Investigative Division. Working with the AG’s Office on this case are MassDEP staff from the Western Regional Office, including Dan Hall, Jim Scheffler, Christine Lebel and Jane Rothchild.