SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced a $3,318,700 settlement with Cox CommunicationsCalifornia, LLC (Cox) and other related entities to resolve allegations that its California facilities unlawfully disposed of hazardous waste – including hazardous batteries, electronic devices, and aerosols. These acts constitute violations of California's Hazardous Waste Control Law, and of California's Unfair Competition Law, as such conduct gives Cox a competitive advantage over other regulated entities that are complying with the law. Cox also is alleged to have discarded customer records without rendering personal information unreadable. This settlement was the result of a partnership between the Attorney General's Office and the Alameda County District Attorney's Office.
“If a company wants to do business in our state, it must abide by our laws,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Unlawfully disposing of hazardous waste can lead to serious health and environmental risks. Unlawfully disposing of personal customer information can seriously jeopardize a person's right to privacy and open the door to identity theft. The California Department of Justice will continue working with state and local agencies to prosecute those who violate our environmental and customer record laws.”
“The Alameda County District Attorney's Office has an environmental protection unit and a consumer protection unit dedicated to ensuring that all entities abide by state laws protecting our natural resources and consumer protection laws,” said District Attorney O'Malley. “Today's settlement marks a victory for both the environment and for the customers of Cox Communication. The legal action also serves as a warning that companies who unlawfully dispose of hazardous waste will be brought to justice.”
As part of the settlement, Cox will:
- Pay $2,100,000 for civil penalties, $404,700 for projects furthering environmental protection, and $814,000 for reimbursement of law enforcement and investigation costs;
- Provide $450,000 in broadcast “air time” for Public Service Announcements to educate the public on how to properly dispose of and recycle consumer hazardous waste such as batteries and electronic devices;
- Spend at least $665,000 on environmental activities beyond those currently required by law in lieu of payment of $150,400 in additional civil penalties;
- Conduct three external environmental compliance audits and three internal audits to review its customer records management procedures;
- Use certified recyclers to safely recycle electronics and other recyclable materials; and
- Be bound by a permanent injunction prohibiting similar violations of law.
The settlement and final judgment follow an extensive investigation by the Attorney General's Office and the Alameda County District Attorney's Office. The investigation included a series of inspections of dumpsters belonging to Cox facilities. The inspections revealed that Cox was routinely and systematically sending hazardous wastes to local landfills that were not permitted to receive those wastes. Several dumpster inspections also revealed Cox disposed of customer records containing confidential personal information. During the relevant period of the investigation, Cox operated 25 facilities in California.
Copies of the complaint and stipulation for entry of final judgment are attached to the electronic version of this release at oag.ca.gov/news.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra / Thursday, May 24, 2018