The settlement resolves allegations that Safeway violated the Clean Air Act by failing to promptly repair leaks of HCFC-22, a hydro-chlorofluorocarbon that is a greenhouse gas (GHG) and ozone-depleting substance used as a coolant in refrigerators, 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 Federal stratospheric ozone regulations. Safeway will also 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.
Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance said, "Safeway's new corporate commitment to reduce air pollution and help protect the ozone layer is vital and significant. 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." Robert Dreher, DOJ Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division said, ""This first-of-its-kind settlement will benefit all Americans by cutting emissions of ozone-depleting substances across Safeway's national supermarket chain. It can serve as a model for comprehensive solutions that improve industry compliance with the nation's Clean Air Act."
HCFC-22 is up to 1,800 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of global warming emissions. The measures that Safeway has committed to are expected to prevent over 100,000 pounds of future releases of ozone-depleting refrigerants that destroy the ozone layer. EPA regulations issued under Title VI of the Clean Air Act require that owners or operators of commercial refrigeration equipment that contains over 50 pounds of ozone-depleting refrigerants, and that has an annual leak rate greater than 35 percent repair such leaks within 30 days.
HCFCs deplete the stratospheric ozone layer, which allows dangerous amounts of cancer-causing ultraviolet rays from the sun to strike the earth, leading to adverse health effects that include skin cancers, cataracts, and suppressed immune systems. Pursuant to the Montreal Protocol, the U.S. is implementing strict reductions of ozone-depleting refrigerants, including a production and importation ban by 2020 of HCFC-22, a common refrigerant used by supermarkets.
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. Corporate commitments to reduce emissions from refrigeration systems have been increasing in recent years. EPA's GreenChill Partnership Program works with food retailers to reduce refrigerant emissions and decrease their impact on the ozone layer and climate change by transitioning to environmentally friendlier refrigerants, using less refrigerant and eliminating leaks, and adopting green refrigeration technologies and best environmental practices.