Enforcement

Safeway, Inc. Clean Air Act Settlement

Washington, DC – September 4, 2013) In a settlement agreement with the United States, Safeway, the nation’s second largest grocery store chain, has agreed to pay a $600,000 civil penalty and implement a corporate-wide plan to significantly reduce its emissions of ozone-depleting substances from refrigeration equipment at 659 of its stores nationwide, estimated to cost approximately $4.1 million. The settlement involves the largest number of facilities ever under the Clean Air Act’s regulations governing refrigeration equipment.  

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Overview of Company

Safeway, headquartered in Pleasanton, California, is the second largest grocery chain in North America with 1,412 stores in the United States.  Safeway operates companies under the banner of Vons in southern California and Nevada, Randalls in Texas, and Carrs in Alaska. The settlement covers 659 Safeway stores – all Safeway stores in the United States that have commercial refrigeration equipment regulated by the CAA except for those stores in Safeway’s Dominick’s Division, which were the subject of a 2004 settlement with the United States.

Violations

Subchapter VI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 7671-7671q, implements the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, and mandates the elimination or control of emissions of substances known to or suspected of destroying the stratospheric ozone layer.

Section 608 of Subchapter VI, 42 U.S.C. § 7671g (National Recycling and Emission Reduction Program) requires EPA to promulgate regulations establishing standards and requirements regarding the use and disposal of ODSs during the servicing, repair, or disposal of appliances. In 1993, pursuant to Section 608(a) of the Act, EPA promulgated regulations at 40 C.F.R. Part 82, Subpart F, §§ 82.150-82.169. These regulations are intended to reduce the use and emission of known or suspected ODS to their “lowest achievable level” and “maximize the recapture and recycling of such substances.” Section 608(a) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 7661g(a). Safeway violated the emissions standards and various recordkeeping requirements.

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Injunctive Relief

Safeway has agreed to implement a Refrigerant Compliance Management System which involves a centralized electronic refrigerant tracking and repair record system designed to ensure continuing compliance by including accountability, management oversight, training, auditing, and other elements necessary for an effective management system.

Safeway has also agreed to reduce its refrigerant Corporate Wide Average Leak Rate from 25% in 2012 to 18% in 2015.  Safeway will further reduce the aggregate refrigerant emissions at its highest-esmission stores by 10% each year for three years. 

Pollutant Reductions

The requirement to reduce the Corporate-Wide Average Leak Rate from 25% to 18% within three years is expected to reduce leaked refrigerant by over 100,000 pounds.  The resulting reductions in leaked refrigerant from the highest-emission stores provisions may be encompassed by leak reduction efforts under the Corporate-Wide Average Leak Rate provisions.

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Health Effects and Environmental Benefits

The impact of ozone depletion is a global phenomenon, and the health and environmental harm as a result of Safeway’s emissions do not have particularized impact on communities near stores where the violations occurred. However, all citizens may be more susceptible to skin cancers, cataracts and immune system suppression as a result of violations like these.

Environmental Mitigation Projects

Safeway will not engage in a separate mitigation project, but much of the injunctive relief will help to mitigate the previous violations by ensuring superior performance.

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Civil Penalty

Safeway will pay $600,000 in civil penalties.

Comment Period

The proposed settlement, lodged in the U.S. District Court of Northern District of California, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. Information on submitting comments is available at the Department of Justice website.

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Contacts

Brian Riedel, Attorney
U.S. EPA, Region 9
75 Hawthorne Street
San Francisco, CA  94105
Email: Brian Riedel (riedel.brian@epa.gov)

Charlie Garlow, Attorney-Advisor
U.S. EPA 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 564-1088
Email: Charlie Garlow (garlow.charlie@epa.gov)

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