Costco pays fine, will fix refrigerant leaks to settle Clean Air Act charges

San Francisco -- Costco Wholesale Corp. agreed to pay a $335,000 in penalties federal Clean Air Act violations, according to a settlement announced Wednesday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Justice. In addition, the retailer will fix refrigerant leaks and make other improvements at 274 of its stores, which EPA estimates will cost about $2 million over the next three years.

“Because of this settlement, Costco will cut its future greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to nearly 200 million pounds of carbon dioxide, supporting our efforts to cut greenhouse gases nationwide,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Investing in better equipment and maintenance to stop wasteful refrigerant leaks is good for our environment and good for business.”

Costco violated the Clean Air Act by failing to promptly repair refrigeration equipment leaks of the refrigerant R-22, a powerful ozone-depleting hydrochlorofluorocarbon, between 2004 and 2007, the EPA said, and also failed to keep adequate records of the servicing of its refrigeration equipment to prevent harmful leaks.
 

The settlement requires Costco to retrofit or replace commercial refrigeration equipment at 30 of its stores to reduce ozone-depleting and greenhouse gas emissions. Costco must also implement a refrigerant management system to prevent and repair coolant leaks and reduce its corporate-wide average leak rate at least 20% by 2017.

In addition, Costco will install and operate environmentally friendly glycol refrigeration systems and centrally monitored refrigerant leak detection systems at all new stores. 

Today’s settlement is part of EPA’s national enforcement initiative to control harmful air pollution from the largest sources of emissions.

The Clean Air Act requires owners or operators of commercial refrigeration equipment that use over 50 pounds of ozone-depleting refrigerants and have an annual leak rate over 35% to repair all leaks within 30 days.

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