© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The company logo for AT&T is displayed on a screen on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., September 18, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo
By David Shepardson
(Reuters) – AT&T said on Tuesday it did not intend to immediately release a lead cable from Lake Tahoe pending further analysis, according to court filings.
AT&T (NYSE:) shares this week hit their lowest level in 30 years, after analysts downgraded the stock following a July 9 Wall Street Journal report that AT&T and other telecommunications companies had left toxic lead wires on pylons, under water and buried underground. AT&T shares fell 0.6% to close at $13.45 on Tuesday.
AT&T on Tuesday harshly criticized the paper’s reporting and testing, saying it “differs dramatically from the expert testing AT&T commissioned.”
In court filings Tuesday, AT&T argued that lead-plated cables “constitute a small part” of its network.
The company estimates that lead-coated cables “represent less than 10% of its footprint of approximately two million miles of cable sheath, much of which is still in active service.”
The company added that more than two-thirds
lead-lined cables “buried or in channels, followed by aerial cables, and with a small portion running underwater.”
The company in 2021 agreed to remove a lead-coated telecom cable from Lake Tahoe, which runs through California and Nevada, to settle a lawsuit even though it is believed to pose no harm.
A lawyer for the company said in a court filing after the Wall Street Journal report that the cable must remain “in place to allow further analysis by qualified and independent interested parties, including the EPA, and to allow the safety of this cable to litigation with objective scientific evidence rather than sensationalist media coverage.”
A status conference is set for Thursday.
AT&T cited a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday in which the Environmental Defense Fund recommended the EPA “assess the condition of underwater cables to determine their condition, their current and anticipated discharges to the environment, and the risks posed by discharges or leaving them in place.”
The court filing asserts that the Wall Street Journal’s testing was “funded by the Environmental Defense Fund and targeted at the site the Journal believes is most likely to have the result it wants: high levels of lead.”
The newspaper, EDF (EPA:) and EPA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.