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EPA fines Costco $335,000 for leaks, orders $2 million in system improvements

EPA fined Costco $335,000 for refrigerant leaks. The company will spend over $2 million on refrigerant management improvements at 274 stores nationwide as part of its settlement with EPA.
EPA fined Costco $335,000 for refrigerant leaks. The company will spend over $2 million on refrigerant management improvements at 274 stores nationwide as part of its settlement with EPA.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice today announced a proposed settlement with Costco resulting from violations of the federal Clean Air Act. As a result of the settlement, Costco will be fined $335,000 and required to spend nearly $2 million to fix refrigerant leaks and make other improvements.

EPA fined ostco for violating the Clean Air Act. President Obama previously visited this Costco store in Maryland.
Photo by Pool/Getty Images

The settlement applies to 274 of Costco's stores nationwide. The company operates 466 warehouse stores in the United States and additional stores worldwide. It has 67 stores in California, including two here in Bakersfield.

The violations resulted from Costco's failure to promptly repair refrigeration equipment leaks of R-22, a powerful ozone-depleting hydrochlorofluorocarbon refrigerant, between 2004 and 2007. R-22 is a powerful greenhouse gas as well, with 1,800 times more global warming potential than carbon dioxide.

Costco also failed to keep adequate service records of its refrigeration equipment related to leaks.

The company must now replace or retrofit refrigeration equipment at 30 of its stores as part of the settlement. In addition, it must implement a refrigerant management plan to prevent and repair coolant leaks such that its corporate-wide average leak rate is reduced by 19 percent or more by 2017. Additionally, all of its new stores will be required to have environmentally friendly glycol refrigeration systems and centrally monitored leak detection systems.

EPA estimates that the settlement will prevent the release of more than 52.5 tons of refrigerants that destroy the ozone layer. In addition, the reductions will be equivalent to 30,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.

“Cutting harmful greenhouse gas emissions is a national priority for EPA, and this settlement will lead to significant reductions of an ozone-depleting gas that is 1,700 times more potent than carbon dioxide,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Fixing leaks of refrigerants, 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.”

The proposed settlement is subject to a 30 day public comment period.