In the settlement announced today by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Justice, Costco Wholesale Corporation will pay $335,000 in penalties for federal Clean Air Act violations and improve refrigerant management at 274 stores at an estimated cost of $2m over the next three years.
It is said that Costco violated the federal Clean Air Act by failing to repair leaks of R22 between 2004 and 2007 and had failed to keep adequate records of the servicing of its refrigeration equipment.
Under the settlement, Costco will implement a refrigerant management system to prevent and repair coolant leaks and reduce its corporate-wide average leak rate by one-fifth (from 24% in 2011 to 19% or less by 2017). Costco will also have to install and operate glycol secondary loop refrigeration systems and centrally monitored refrigerant leak detection systems at all new stores for three years. As required by the settlement, Costco will retrofit commercial refrigeration equipment at 30 stores, reducing ozone-depleting and greenhouse gas emissions.
The USA’s Clean Air Act Title VI requires owners or operators of commercial refrigeration equipment with over 50lb (22.7kg) of ozone-depleting refrigerants, and with an annual leak rate greater than 35%, to repair all leaks within 30 days.
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.
Costco, headquartered in Issaquah, Wash, operates 466 stores in 43 US states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, and additional stores worldwide, with revenues of $105.2bn in 2013. The settlement covers 274 Costco stores that have commercial refrigeration equipment regulated by the Clean Air Act.
The proposed settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.