The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Justice and the Attorney’s Office reached a $1.4 million environmental settlement with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) that will bring cleaner air and water to the Boston region.
After years of numerous air and water violations, the settlement requires that the MBTA pay a fine of $328,247 and take on two environmental projects.
“The cash component of the penalty is going to the U.S. Treasury,“ said Catherine Smith, EPA senior enforcement counsel. “This penalty would have been much, much higher if MBTA had not agreed to do some environmental projects.”
One of the projects, valued at $1 million, will reduce pollution from commuter trains by using lower-polluting low-sulfur diesel fuel. According to MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo, the EPA recently announced that all locomotives in the country would have to use low-sulfur diesel by summer 2007.
“Under the settlement, the locomotives in our fleet will all be using low-sulfur diesel three years before the deadline established by the EPA,” Pesaturo said.
The other project involves donating an easement on a one-acre strip of land to extend a bike path along the Mystic River, providing a critical link in the Boston bike path network.
“We own a lot of abandoned railroad rights-of-way,” Pesaturo added. “If we determine that it is no longer needed for transit purposes or future transit needs, then we are happy to transfer the property to communities that would like to use it for recreational purposes. It’s an excellent use of land.”
The EPA also found at least 55 buses idling for more than five minutes during inspections in 2002, at which point the EPA issued to the MBTA a notice of violation for excessive bus idling.
“We immediately notified all of the supervisors within our bus operations division that it was extremely important to monitor idling in the yards,” Pesaturo said. “Any violations by bus operators would have to be written up and operators would be facing disciplinary action for violating the rules.”
The MBTA will now meet a five-minute idling limit for all buses, except on very cold days.
According to the EPA, the MBTA has also been discharging wash water, cooling water and stormwater into the Mystic River for years, without the required permits or pollution prevention plans.
“We found water violations before 2002,” Smith said. “We made sure that during the course of the negotiations on the resolution, MBTA got the appropriate permits and oil spill pollution and stormwater pollution prevention plans in place for each of the facilities, and they did that.”
To prevent future environmental violations, the MBTA will immediately implement a regimented Environmental Management System for all of its operations.
“[We] view this settlement as the formal end of an era in which bus operations were neglected here at the MBTA,” Pesaturo said. “And we are now in the midst of an extraordinary bus procurement in which we will replace two-thirds of our bus fleet with high-tech, low-emission buses.”