Costco Wholesale Corp. has agreed to cut emissions of ozone-depleting and greenhouse gases from leaking refrigeration equipment at more than half of its stores nationwide.
In the settlement announced Wednesday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Justice, Costco will pay $335,000 in penalties for violations of the federal Clean Air Act and will fix refrigerant leaks and make other improvements at 274 of its stores, which EPA estimates will cost about $2 million over the next three years.
The agencies said Costco violated the Clean Air Act by failing to promptly repair refrigeration equipment leaks of the refrigerant R-22, a powerful ozone-depleting hydrochlorofluorocarbon, between 2004 and 2007. Costco also failed to keep adequate records of the servicing of its refrigeration equipment to prevent harmful leaks. EPA said destroying the ozone layer results in dangerous amounts of cancer-causing ultraviolet solar radiation striking the earth, increasing skin cancers and cataracts. R-22 is also a potent greenhouse gas, with 1,800 times more global warming potential than carbon dioxide, or CO2.
Sam Hirsch, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, said, “Industry needs to lead the way in abandoning harmful chemicals in favor of using and developing greener, environmentally friendly alternatives to protect our health and our climate.”
The settlement requires Costco to retrofit or replace commercial refrigeration equipment at 30 of its stores to reduce ozone-depleting and greenhouse gas emissions. Costco must also implement a refrigerant management system to prevent and repair coolant leaks and reduce its corporate-wide average leak rate at least 20 percent by 2017. In addition, Costco will install and operate environmentally friendly glycol refrigeration systems and centrally monitored refrigerant leak detection systems at all new stores.