- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 30, 2001

The Justice Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have reached an agreement with Amtrak, the nation's largest passenger railroad, to perform environmental audits at facilities nationwide and to make other environmental improvements.
The agreement, which includes projects to restore wetlands and reduce PCBs in locomotive transformers, settles claims that Amtrak violated requirements of the Clean Water Act at nine sites in New England.
Amtrak also agreed to pay a $500,000 civil penalty and spend $900,000 on environmental projects in New England after the settlement filed this week in U.S. District Court in Boston.
"This Amtrak settlement is a good example of industry and government working together to achieve a high level of environmental compliance," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman.
"I commend Amtrak for its cooperation in this settlement and for the aggressive steps it has taken to correct the environmental deficiencies in its operations," Mrs. Whitman said.
The agreement requires Amtrak to undertake environmental compliance audits at 51 facilities and to disclose and correct any environmental problems it discovers, Justice Department spokeswoman Katie Biber said yesterday.
The audits, she said, will evaluate Amtrak compliance at facilities and help identify and correct violations.
The settlement stems from environmental violations EPA discovered in the late 1990s at Amtrak facilities in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. EPA cited Amtrak for violating the Clean Water Act's storm water provisions.
Storm water discharges from rail maintenance facilities can carry oil, grease and metals into storm drains, compromising the health and quality of streams and waterways.
EPA has identified storm water runoff as a leading cause of poor water quality in the United States.
"Amtrak will undertake a broad management plan to comply with all federal environmental laws and minimize pollution that could be released into our water, air or soil," said acting Assistant Attorney General John Cruden, who heads the Justice Department's environment division.
Amtrak, Ms. Biber said, has begun to implement a companywide environmental management system at a cost expected to exceed $11 million. The program includes development of an audit program, a companywide environmental information system, enhanced compliance training and increased environmental compliance staffing.
Amtrak already has created 27 new environmental positions a threefold increase from staffing levels at the time the EPA first discovered the Clean Water Act violations.
Ms. Biber said the agreement with Amtrak is the federal government's second nationwide settlement addressing storm water violations.
On June 7, the government announced a settlement with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to resolve charges that the retailer violated storm water requirements at 17 locations nationwide.

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