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$500,000 fine for failing to plug R22 leaks

47763081_lUSA: A US supermarket chain is to pay a fine of $500,000 for failing to promptly repair R22 refrigerant leaks.

In addition, the retailer, California-based Trader Joe’s, will spend $2m to reduce refrigerant emissions and introduce CO2 refrigeration to a number of its stores.

The US Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) alleged that Trader Joe’s violated the Clean Air Act by failing to keep adequate servicing records of its refrigeration equipment and failed to provide information about its compliance record.

Under the proposed settlement Trader Joe’s also agreed to improve company-wide compliance and spend an estimated $2m over the next three years to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from refrigeration equipment at its 453 stores. 

“By reducing the amount of ozone depleting refrigerants and potent greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere, this settlement will assist our efforts to control these two major global environmental problems,” said assistant attorney general John C Cruden of the Department of Justice’s environment and natural resources division.

Trader Joe’s will now implement a corporate refrigerant compliance management system to comply with federal stratospheric ozone regulations and to detect and repair leaks through a new quarterly leak monitoring programme. In addition, Trader Joe’s will achieve and maintain an annual corporate-wide average leak rate of 12.1% through 2019, well below the current US grocery store sector average of 25%. 

This is the first EPA settlement with requirements to repair leaks of HFCs in order to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The company must also use non-ozone depleting refrigerants at all new stores and major remodels and at least 15 of these stores must use low GWP refrigerants, such as carbon dioxide.


“Taking action to combat climate change is a priority for the Obama Administration and this settlement will result in substantial cuts to one of the most potent greenhouse gases,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “The company-wide upgrades Trader Joe’s will make are not only good for the environment, they set a high bar for the grocery industry for detecting and fixing coolant leaks.”

“Today’s settlement will affect all of Trader Joe’s current and new stores to prevent the release of approximately 31,000 tonnes of carbon-equivalent greenhouse gases,” said Alexis Strauss, acting regional administrator for EPA’s Pacific Southwest.

EPA regulations issued under the Clean Air Act require that owners or operators of commercial refrigeration equipment that contain over 50 pounds of ozone-depleting refrigerants repair any leaks within 30 days. Approximately 25% of Trader Joe’s equipment units currently use HFCs.

The settlement is the third in a series of national grocery store refrigerant cases, including cases previously filed against Safeway and Costco.

Trader Joe’s, headquartered in Monrovia, California, is a privately held chain of specialty grocery stores in the US, with 461 stores located in 43 states and Washington, DC, and 2014 revenues of $9.38bn.

The settlement was lodged today in the US District Court for the Northern District of California and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.

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