Massachusetts AG Sues Over Allegedly Mishandled Asbestos Debris From Decommissioned Power Station

Troutman Pepper

[co-author: Stephanie Kozol]*

On February 14, Massachusetts Attorney General (AG) Andrea Joy Campbell filed a civil lawsuit against Holtec Decommissioning International LLC and its affiliate Holtec Pilgrim LLC (Holtec), alleging the improper handling of asbestos-containing demolition debris in violation of the Commonwealth’s Public Health Law. The Commonwealth is seeking civil penalties of $25,000 for each day of violation, as well as a permanent injunction that would require Holtec to comply with the state’s Air Act and the air regulations that are promulgated under the state’s Public Health Law. Shortly after the filing, the parties announced that they are working toward a settlement that could require Holtec to pay somewhere between $200,000 to $500,000.

AG Campbell alleges that Holtec mishandled asbestos-containing material during the decommissioning process of the former Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, MA, resulting in air pollution that repeatedly put employees of the company at risk. Specifically, on May 13, 2021, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) learned that a water-storage tank at the site that had been painted with asbestos-containing paint had been demolished a few days prior without Holtec providing notice to DEP, undergoing an inspection, and receiving the required authorization. The AG alleges that Holtec never sought an emergency waiver. The complaint also alleges that Holtec illegally transported the asbestos-containing material in open-top dumpsters to a facility that was not approved to accept special waste. In addition, Holtec is accused of hiring a contractor to demolish concrete walls that contained vermiculite with asbestos without seeking the proper regulatory approvals or waivers. As with the water tower, the work was allegedly done in the open and absent any efforts to secure the area or use a proper air filtration system. Other asbestos-related violations are also alleged.

We continue to see AGs partnering with state and federal environmental agencies to bring regulatory action against companies that they believe are putting individuals and the environment at risk through their business practices. Many state AGs consider environmental protection as a primary mission of the office to promote the health and safety of constituents and allocate resources accordingly. Companies that interact with hazardous substances must be sure that compliance policies are well documented, employees are properly trained, and that all applicable local, state, and federal regulations are followed. The AGs may hold businesses financially liable for environmental contamination if regulations are violated.

*Senior Government Relations Manager

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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