Costco to cut greenhouse gas emissions in deal with EPA

One of the nation's largest retailers is vowing to fix refrigerant leaks in an effort to cut back greenhouse gas emissions.

In a settlement with the Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday, Costco agreed to cut emissions of ozone-depleting greenhouse gases leaking from refrigeration equipment at more than half of its stores across the U.S.

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The improvements to the leaky equipment at 274 of its stores is expected to cost roughly $2 million over the next three years, the EPA estimates.

Costco will also pay $335,000 for violating federal air regulations.

“Compliance with the nation’s Clean Air Act is key to protecting all Americans from air pollution that damages our atmosphere and changes our climate,” said Sam Hirsch, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s environment wing.

“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," Hirsch added.

The settlement comes from violations between 2004 and 2007, when Costco failed to repair equipment leaks of refrigerant containing hydrochlorofluorocarbon, which is a "powerful" ozone-depleting compound that contributes to global warming, the EPA said.

The retail giant was also penalized for failing to keep adequate records of repairs that would prevent leaks.

On top of cutting emissions, the settlement also mandates Costco implement a management system to prevent and repair coolant leaks and cut its companywide leak rate 20 percent by 2017.

“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 enforcement office.