Multi-Million Dollar Penalty for Clean Water Act Breaches

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in conjunction with the Justice Department, has settled with Swinerton Builders, imposing a $2.3 million penalty for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act during solar farm constructions in Alabama, Idaho, and Illinois. This penalty will be shared between the United States, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), and the State of Illinois.

Restoration Efforts of Portneuf River near Pocatello, Idaho

Besides the financial penalty, Swinerton Builders has committed to environmental restoration efforts. A notable initiative includes a $600,000 project to restore the Portneuf River near Pocatello, Idaho. This effort aims to reduce sediment, enhance riparian and wetland habitats, and improve recreational facilities. In Alabama, Swinerton will purchase stream credits to bolster the watershed's health and aquatic habitats.

Official Statements

EPA's Assistant Administrator David M. Uhlmann emphasized the necessity of environmental compliance, even for projects critical to mitigating climate change, such as solar farms. Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division praised the settlement for holding Swinerton accountable and benefiting the affected communities.

Background of Violations

The complaint alleges that Swinerton Builders, a leading constructor of utility-scale solar farms, failed to implement adequate stormwater controls, leading to significant sediment runoffs into nearby waterways. These actions violated the Clean Water Act and threatened aquatic life and drinking water systems.

solar Zbynek Burial - Unsplash

Details of the Settlement

The breakdown of the $2.3 million penalty includes $1,614,600 to the United States, $540,500 to ADEM, and $144,900 to the State of Illinois.

This could be considered an important settlement that points to the irony of the impact and damage done to Idaho's water and natural resources in the name of mitigating climate change.

You can find more information about this story on the EPA website.

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