Trader Joe's settles with Feds over alleged air pollution violations

Trader Joe's settles with Feds over alleged air pollution violations
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Specialty grocery store chain Trader Joe’s has agreed to spend $2 million to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from refrigeration equipment and will pay a $500,000 penalty to settle allegations that it violated federal air pollution regulations.

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As part of the joint settlement with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Trader Joe’s will spend the next three years working to reduce coolant leaks from refrigerators and improve company-wide compliance at 453 stores.

The California-based company is accused of violating the Clean Air Act by failing to promptly repair leaks of R-22, a hydrochlorofluorocarbon that is an ozone-depleting substance and potent greenhouse gas used as a coolant in refrigerators, and failing to keep adequate servicing records of its equipment. The company also failed to provide information about its compliance record, according to the agencies.

“Taking action to combat climate change is a priority for the Obama Administration and this settlement will result in substantial cuts to one of the most potent greenhouse gases,” Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said in a statement. 

“The company-wide upgrades Trader Joe’s will make are not only good for the environment, they set a high bar for the grocery industry for detecting and fixing coolant leaks.”

The DOJ expects Trader Joe’s greenhouse gas reductions from this settlement to equal the greenhouse gas emissions from 6,500 passenger vehicles driven in a year, the CO2 emissions from 33 million pounds of coal burned or the carbon sequestered by 25,000 acres of forest in one year.

In a statement to The Hill, Trader Joe’s said it “looks forward to working with the EPA in its mission to reduce air pollution and protect the ozone layer, and, with this agreement, has committed to reducing its emissions to a rate that matches the best of the industry.”

The chain has 461 stores in 43 states and Washington, D.C.

The DOJ and the EPA previously settled refrigerant cases against Safeway Inc. and Costco Wholesale Corp.

The EPA has been working with international regulators to reduce the use of hydrofluorocarbons, another chemical used in refrigeration. The agency has said it expects to reach an international deal on those chemicals sometime this year.

— Updated at 2:02 p.m.