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US retailer agrees $5.1m fine for refrigerant violations

USA: The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has reached a $5.1m settlement agreement with the Albertsons retail chain for violations of the state’s Refrigerant Management Program (RMP).

The Refrigerant Management Program was adopted in 2009 as a measure under the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from large stationary refrigeration systems. 

During regular inspections under the RMP, CARB investigators found that Albertsons failed to comply with the programme’s requirements across Albertsons stores in California between 2016-2018. Violations included failure to annually audit and calibrate automatic leak detection equipment; failure to ensure that all detected refrigerant leaks were repaired within 14 days of detection by a certified technician; failure to accurately register and report their stores’ refrigeration systems; and failure to maintain required records for at least five years.

Albertsons is the largest retail grocery chain in California with approximately 600 stores. Its total of over 2,200 stores makes it the second-largest supermarket chain in North America after Kroger.

“California committed to an accelerated reduction of greenhouse gases to meet state targets, and the Refrigerant Management Program has been a highly successful tool for achieving our climate goals. I’d like to congratulate our investigation and settlement teams for their effort and diligence in identifying and processing this case,” said CARB executive officer Richard Corey.

In a deal which puts the policing of the European F-gas regulations to shame, Albertsons’ settlement includes a $2.55m civil penalty and $2.55m in funding for two “supplemental environmental projects”. The funding penalties will be split between installing air filtration systems in schools through California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District and another for a Placer County community-based project through Placer County Air Quality Management District.

According to CARB, Albertsons was fully cooperative throughout the investigation, made good faith efforts to come into compliance and reach a settlement with CARB and signed a compliance plan to ensure ongoing compliance with the RMP regulation.

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