In the solar industry, it’s been a very long time coming.
But that’s all about to change.
Sunoco, the world’s biggest operator of solar energy, has been facing multiple lawsuits over alleged mismanagement and environmental violations, including a 2015 lawsuit in which Sunoco allegedly used a toxic chemical to spray on solar panels in New York State.
A federal judge in December 2016 ruled that Sunoco could not use a chemical called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to spray chemicals onto solar panels and other solar installations in the U.S. in violation of federal and state laws.
Sunaco, which operates in the United States and Canada, and its affiliates have been ordered to pay $6.6 million to the New York Attorney General’s office, $1.8 million to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to resolve the lawsuit, and $1 million to a group of solar panels owners who sued Sunoco in 2017.
As a result of Sunoco’s recent lawsuit, the company has now agreed to pay a $1,000 penalty to the federal government to address the claims, which were filed by the American Clean Energy Action (ACEE), a coalition of local groups, environmental groups, and other parties.
The settlement comes in the wake of Sunaco’s 2016 federal court filing, which claimed that its solar leases violated federal law.
The settlement agreement also requires Sunoco to spend $1 billion over three years on “remediation, clean up, and remediation programs,” to address “the impacts of the litigation and other actions that were initiated by the parties and/or by the public.”
Sunoco’s CEO, Michael Schiller, is the company’s CEO.
According to the ACEE’s filing, the settlement will help Sunoco resolve its alleged environmental violations that the companies are “fully aware of.”
According the ACCE filing, Sunaco’s CEO Michael Schilling has “been a vocal opponent of EPA’s efforts to regulate CO2 emissions from coal plants, coal power plants, and the nation’s largest coal producer, Duke Energy.”
The ACCE also notes that Sunaco has “shown a history of taking steps to circumvent EPA’s Clean Air Act by using chemical and other means to cover up its alleged actions and to conceal its pollution.”
“Sunoco is a major participant in the coal industry,” ACCE stated in its complaint.
“Its coal-fired power plants emit up to 400 times the CO2 pollution of natural gas plants.”
Schiller is the CEO of SolarCity, a privately held company that makes solar panels for residential and commercial customers.
Solar City, which also operates in California, New Jersey, and Ohio, has faced multiple lawsuits alleging its solar leasing practices violated federal environmental laws.
In November 2016, SolarCity settled a federal court case with the U,S.
Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), which found that SolarCity was violating the Clean Air act.
Schilling was the company CEO from 2003 until 2011, when he resigned.
On January 20, 2018, Solar City announced that Schiller would step down as CEO of SolarCity, effective immediately.
“We will now focus on the full restoration of our company’s leadership and processes,” SolarCity stated in a statement.
However, the agreement does not address any other allegations.
The US Department of Justice has not yet announced whether it will pursue any civil or criminal action against Sunoco, but the Department of the Interior has opened an investigation into the alleged violations.
While the settlement doesn’t directly address the allegations of pollution, it does address the concerns raised by the US Environmental Protection Act.
A federal judge ordered Sunoco and SolarCity to pay the EPA a $500,000 fine, which was ultimately reduced to $250,000, in October 2017.
A judge had earlier found that Sunocos alleged environmental mismanagement was “clearly, prima facie, not a violation of the Clean air Act.”
In June 2018, a federal judge ruled that the Clean Air Acts violations had “a direct and material effect” on the plaintiffs’ business interests, stating that the “EPA has not demonstrated that the alleged conduct is directly or indirectly attributable to the plaintiff’s business interests.”
Additionally, the judge found that the EPA had not adequately addressed Sunocos alleged environmental complaints, and had failed to investigate the alleged claims.
Sunco and Solar City did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment.