Columbia University To Pay Pollution Penalty of $135K
By JOSEPH GOLDSTEIN
Columbia University will pay more than $100,000 to settle claims that its heating system polluted the air in violation of federal law.
The Environmental Protection Agency alleged yesterday that the university failed to test the sulfur levels used in fuel for its central steam plant and that emissions from the plant occasionally violated clean air standards, according to a legal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
The two sides promptly settled the case, with Columbia agreeing to pay $135,754, far less than the sum Columbia was eligible to forfeit, had it lost the case at trial. The law permits the government to seek a penalty of as much as $27,500 for each day the university was in violation of the Clean Air Act. Columbia failed to test its fuel more than 120 days in recent years, according to the complaint.
A spokesman for Columbia, Robert Hornsby, said the settlement "addressed an isolated circumstance."
The legal complaint focused on one of the four boilers that make up the university's central steam plant at its Morningside Heights campus. Because one of the boilers was installed recently, in 1998, it was subject to more stringent environmental standards than the other three.
"This settlement demonstrates the government's commitment to ensuring that all entities, including educational and not-for-profit institutions, comply with the federal environmental law," the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, Michael Garcia, said in a statement.