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$1.55m fine settles refrigerant emission allegations

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USA: A US scrap metal recycling company has agreed a proposed settlement of $1.55m for allegedly failing to recover refrigerant from small appliances and motor vehicle air conditioners.

The proposed settlement with Schnitzer Steel Inc of Portland, Oregon, will resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act and regulations designed to protect stratospheric ozone at 40 scrap metal recycling facilities throughout the USA.

If approved by the court, the settlement will also require the company to implement compliance measures worth over $1.7m to prevent the release of ozone-depleting refrigerants and non-exempt substitutes from refrigerant-containing items during their processing and disposal and complete an environmental mitigation project. 

The action filed by the United States, on behalf of the US Environmental Protection Agency, alleges that Schnitzer failed to recover refrigerant from small appliances and motor vehicle air conditioners before disposal or to verify from the supplier that the refrigerant had been properly recovered prior to delivery to Schnitzer’s facilities.

Under the settlement, Schnitzer must implement an EPA-approved Refrigerant Recovery Management Programme (RRMP) at its 40 US facilities. The RRMP includes, among other things: installation of refrigerant recovery systems at Schnitzer’s facilities; screening procedures for scrap appliances and vehicles; new forms for statements and contracts to verify any refrigerant recovery from appliances and motor vehicles prior to receipt by Schnitzer; notices to customers regarding proper procedures for delivering items currently or previously containing refrigerants; employee training on procedures for ensuring compliance with regulations designed to prevent the release of refrigerants; and record-keeping and reporting obligations.

The settlement also requires Schnitzer to perform an environmental mitigation project involving the destruction of all R12 refrigerant in scrapped appliances and automobiles received at its facilities.

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