Costco Wholesale Corporation, one of the nation’s largest retailers, has agreed to cut its emissions of ozone-depleting and greenhouse gases from leaking refrigeration equipment at more than half of its stores nationwide, officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said today.
According to the consent decree, Costco will pay $335,000 in penalties for federal Clean Air Act violations 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 company is allowed to determine at which stores to make the repairs, according to the consent decree. Those stores were not named in the decree and it was not immediately clear whether that would include any of the four Hawaii stores.
“Because of this settlement, Costco will cut its future greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to nearly 200 million pounds of carbon dioxide, supporting our efforts to cut greenhouse gases nationwide,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Investing in better equipment and maintenance to stop wasteful refrigerant leaks is good for our environment and good for business.”
Federal officials 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. 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, officials said.
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.
Costco, headquartered in Issaquah, Wash., operates 466 stores in the U.S. and additional stores worldwide, with revenues of $105.2 billion in 2013. Today’s settlement covers 274 Costco stores with regulated commercial refrigeration equipment, including 67 stores in California, 14 in Arizona, 5 in Nevada, and 4 in Hawaii.
The proposed settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.
The proposed settlement is available at usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html