WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) have announced a settlement with Costco Wholesale Corp. in which the company agrees to pay $335,000 in penalties for federal Clean Air Act violations and improve refrigerant management at 274 stores at an estimated cost of $2 million over the next three years.

According to EPA and DOJ, Costco violated the federal Clean Air Act by failing to repair leaks of R-22 refrigerant between 2004 and 2007. Costco also failed to keep adequate records of the servicing of its refrigeration equipment, as required by the Clean Air Act to prevent leaks.

Under the settlement, Costco will implement a refrigerant management system to prevent and repair refrigerant leaks and reduce its corporate-wide average leak rate by one-fifth (from 24 percent in 2011 to 19 percent or less by 2017). Costco will install and operate environmentally-friendly glycol secondary loop refrigeration systems and centrally monitored refrigerant leak detection systems at all new stores for three years. Also, Costco will retrofit commercial refrigeration equipment at 30 stores, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The measures required of Costco by the settlement are expected to prevent more than 105,000 pounds of future releases of ozone-depleting refrigerants.

The measures required are also expected to reduce Costco’s greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of approximately 30,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.

Clean Air Act Title VI requires owners or operators of commercial refrigeration equipment with over 50 pounds of ozone-depleting refrigerants, and with an annual leak rate greater than 35 percent, to repair all leaks within 30 days.

The proposed settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.

A copy of the proposed settlement is available here.

Publication date: 9/1/2014

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