EPA investigating alleged Google chemical release

The U.S. government is looking into 'an alleged release of refrigerant' and the accuracy of Google's related records, the search giant disclosed Wednesday.

Greener-than-thou Google, which takes environmentalism seriously, is under investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency for an alleged coolant problem at one of its data centers, the company disclosed Wednesday.

"In February 2009, we learned of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency investigation into an alleged release of refrigerant at one of our smaller data facilities, which we acquired from DoubleClick, and the accuracy of related statements and records," Google said in a quarterly report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

"We are cooperating with the EPA and have provided documents and other materials. The EPA investigation could result in fines, civil or criminal penalties, or other administrative action," Google said.

How much in the way of fines? Probably peanuts, compared to Google's net income of $1.3 billion for the first quarter of 2009, but any amount would probably sting for a company that's focused on efficient data centers and fixing the country's energy problems .

"While we currently believe this matter will not have a material adverse effect on our business, consolidated financial position, results of operations, or cash flows, we have noted it in accord with Securities and Exchange Commission regulations that call for disclosure of certain environmental proceedings that may result in monetary sanctions of $100,000 or more," Google said in the filing.

About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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