Safeway has agreed to pay a $600,000 civil penalty and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from refrigeration equipment at 659 of its stores nationwide as part of a settlement involving the largest number of facilities ever under the federal Clean Air Act’s regulations governing refrigeration equipment.
Safeway’s emissions reduction plan is expected to cost about $4.1 million.
The settlement follows allegations by the EPA that Safeway, the second largest grocery chain in North America, violated the Clean Air Act by failing to promptly repair leaks of HCFC-22, a hydro-chlorofluorocarbon that is an ozone-depleting substance used as a coolant in refrigerators, and failed to keep adequate records of the servicing of its refrigeration equipment.
Safeway will now implement a corporate refrigerant compliance management system to comply with stratospheric ozone regulations, according to the settlement reached in federal court on Wednesday. In addition, Safeway will reduce its corporate-wide average leak rate from 25 percent in 2012 to 18 percent or below in 2015. The company will also reduce the aggregate refrigerant emissions at its highest-emission stores by 10 percent each year for three years.
The EPA expects these measures to prevent more than 100,000 pounds of future releases of ozone-depleting refrigerants, which are more than 1,800 times more potent than carbon dioxide, says Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest.
EPA regulations issued under Title VI of the Clean Air Act require that owners or operators of commercial refrigeration equipment that contains more than 50 pounds of ozone-depleting refrigerants — and that has an annual leak rate greater than 35 percent — repair such leaks within 30 days.
Pursuant to the Montreal Protocol, the US is implementing strict reductions of ozone-depleting refrigerants, including a production and importation ban by 2020 of HCFC-22, a common refrigerant used by supermarkets.
Late last month Delhaize America opened a grocery store that uses carbon dioxide as a refrigerant rather than hydroflourocarbons (HFCs) — the first such supermarket in the US, according to the Environmental Investigation Agency. HFCs are gaseous compounds used in refrigerants and insulating foams and a major source of greenhouse gases.
The Hannaford grocery store in Turner, Maine, uses a CO2 transcritical system that will reduce the store’s carbon footprint by 3.4 million pounds of CO2e annually, EIA reports.