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Safeway to Pay $4.1 Million to Fix Clean Air Act Violations

The settlement with the U.S. government affects nearly 47 percent of the grocery store chain.

Half Moon Bay Safeway
Half Moon Bay Safeway
Safeway, the nation’s second largest grocery store chain, has settled with the United Stated government for $600,000 in a civil penalty and will spend $4.1 million to mitigate refrigeration leaks, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Justice announced Wednesday

The Pleasanton-based grocer had been sued for violations of the Clean Air Act, specifically for "failing to promptly repair leaks" of hydro-chlorofluorocarbon—a gas frequently reference in ozone-depletion—used as a coolant in refrigerators. The government also charged that Safeway "failed to keep adequate records of the servicing of its refrigeration equipment."

Safeway needs to implement this fix, and a compliance management system, at its 659 out of its 1,412 stores nationwide. They must also reduce the current leaks to 18 percent by 2015 from 25 percent in 2012.

Safeway has one store in Half Moon Bay. Patch will update residents whether the local stores will be affected.

According to the EPA, "the settlement involves the largest number of facilities ever under the Clean Air Act’s regulations governing refrigeration equipment." 

"Safeway’s new corporate commitment to reduce air pollution and help protect the ozone layer is vital and significant," said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "Fixing leaks, improving compliance and reducing emissions will make a real difference in protecting us from the dangers of ozone depletion, while reducing the impact on climate change."

The EPA explains that HCFC-22 depletes the ozone layer, which can let in cancer-causing ultraviolet rays from the sun into the Earth. HCFC-22 "is up to 1,800 times more potent than carbon dioxide," the EPA added.

"This first-of-its-kind settlement will benefit all Americans by cutting emissions of ozone-depleting substances across Safeway’s national supermarket chain," said Robert G. Dreher, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. "It can serve as a model for comprehensive solutions that improve industry compliance with the nation’s Clean Air Act."

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