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Environmental Enforcement: Metal Management West to Pay $75,000 Ozone Penalty

Metal Management West, a Utah scrap metal company, is to pay $75,000 for alleged violations of ozone protection rules contained within the Clean Air Act.

The company and the Environmental Protection Agency entered into a consent agreement under which Metal Management will pay a $75,000 penalty for alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act’s program to prevent releases of ozone-depleting chemicals.

The agreement resolves a complaint filed by the EPA that alleges that between April 2004 and September 2006, Metal Management West had accepted and disposed of household appliances and motor vehicles without correctly verifying that dangerous ozone depleting chemicals contained within them had been removed prior to their disposal.

Chlorofluorocarbon refrigerants (CFCs) and certain substitute refrigerants deplete the stratospheric, or “good,” ozone layer allowing dangerous amounts of ultraviolet rays from the sun to strike the earth, according to the EPA.

Studies have shown that an increase in UV rays has been linked to both skin cancer and cataracts. Production of some of these chemicals was stopped in 1995, and federal law strictly controls their use and handling, the EPA said.

“Protecting the Earth’s ozone layer is an important goal of the Clean Air Act and every pound of CFCs that enters the environment is a setback to accomplishing this goal,“ said Mike Gaydosh, the EPA’s Assistant Regional Administrator for the Office of Enforcement, Compliance and Environmental Justice in Denver. “We expect any facilities that handle refrigerants to have sound practices for recovery,” he added.

The 1987 Montreal Protocol encourages the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) to replace CFCs as a more ozone-friendly alternative. The U.N. and World Bank jointly administer a worldwide fund that spends $150 million on companies that work toward replacing CFCs with hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) which then decompose into HFCs.

But both HFCs and CFCs are powerful greenhouse gasses, up to 10,000 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping solar heat.

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