WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Justice have announced a settlement agreement with Safeway in which the grocery store chain has agreed to pay a $600,000 civil penalty and implement a corporate-wide plan to significantly reduce its refrigerant emissions from refrigeration equipment at 659 of its stores nationwide, estimated to cost approximately $4.1 million.

The settlement involves the largest number of facilities ever under the Clean Air Act’s regulations governing refrigeration equipment.

The settlement resolves allegations that Safeway violated the federal Clean Air Act by failing to promptly repair leaks of HCFC-22 refrigerant — an ozone-depleting substance — and failed to keep adequate records of the servicing of its refrigeration equipment. Safeway will now implement a corporate refrigerant compliance management system to comply with stratospheric ozone regulations. In addition, Safeway will reduce its corporate-wide average leak rate from 25 percent in 2012 to 18 percent or below in 2015. The company will also reduce the aggregate refrigerant emissions at its highest-emission stores by 10 percent each year for three years.

“Safeway’s new corporate commitment to reduce air pollution and help protect the ozone layer is vital and significant,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Fixing leaks, improving compliance, and reducing emissions will make a real difference in protecting us from the dangers of ozone depletion, while reducing the impact on climate change.”

“This first-of-its-kind settlement will benefit all Americans by cutting emissions of ozone-depleting substances across Safeway’s national supermarket chain,” said Robert G. Dreher, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “It can serve as a model for comprehensive solutions that improve industry compliance with the nation’s Clean Air Act.”

EPA regulations issued under Title VI of the Clean Air Act require that the owner or operators of commercial refrigeration equipment that contains over 50 pounds of ozone-depleting refrigerant, and that has an annual leak rate greater than 35 percent, repair such leaks within 30 days.

The settlement is part of EPA’s national enforcement initiative to control air pollution from the largest sources of emissions, including large grocery stores.

More information on the Safeway settlement is available here.

Publication date: 9/2/2013

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