Thursday, September 05, 2013

First-Of-Its-Kind Settlement For GHG & Ozone Protection Requirements

Sep 4: U.S. EPA and the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a settlement agreement with Safeway, the nation's second largest grocery store chain, that has agreed to pay a $600,000 civil penalty and implement a corporate-wide plan to significantly reduce its emissions of ozone-depleting substances 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. Safeway, headquartered in Pleasanton, CA, is the second largest grocery chain with 1,412 stores in the U.S. and 2012 revenues of $44.2 billion. The settlement covers 659 Safeway stores – all Safeway stores in the U.S. that have commercial refrigeration equipment regulated by the Clean Air Act, except for those stores in Safeway's Dominick's Division, which was the subject of a 2004 settlement with the U.S. The settlement was lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.

    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.
    Access a release from EPA (click here). Access links to the consent decree and complaint (click here). [#Air, #Climate]