Costco to cut refrigerant emissions in deal with EPA

America's second largest retailer Costco Wholesale Corporation has been forced to cut the emissions of ozone-depleting and greenhouse gas chemicals from its refrigeration equipment after violating national regulations set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The company, which operates 466 stores in 43 US states, has been ordered by the Department of Justice to pay $335k (£203.5k) in penalties for federal ‘Clean Air Act’ violations and improve refrigeration management at 274 stores at an estimated cost of $2m (£1.2m) over the next three years.

“Cutting harmful greenhouse gas emissions is a national priority for EPA, and this settlement will lead to significant reductions of an ozone-depleting gas that is 1,700 times more potent than carbon dioxide,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

“Fixing leaks of refrigerants, 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.”

Costco violated the federal Clean Air Act by failing to repair leaks of the refrigerant R-22 – a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HFC) and a powerful ozone-depleting substance, between 2004 and 2007. Costco also failed to keep adequate records of the servicing of its refrigeration equipment – another requirement of the Clean Air Act to prevent harmful leaks.

Lead the way

The Justice Department’s environment and natural resources acting assistant attorney general Sam Hirsch said: “Compliance with the nation’s Clean Air Act is key to protecting all Americans from air pollution that damages our atmosphere and changes our climate.

“Industry needs to lead the way in abandoning harmful chemicals in favour of using and developing greener, environmentally friendly alternatives to protect our health and our climate.”

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

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

Luke Nicholls

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