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Photo: Mike Mozart

The national grocery store chain Trader Joe’s has agreed to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from its refrigeration equipment in 453 stores. The company agreed to the reductions as part of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency over alleged violations of the Clean Air Act.

The DOJ and EPA alleged that Trader Joe’s violated the Clean Air Act by failing to stop leaks of a greenhouse gas that also depletes the ozone layer. The gas, hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) is used as a coolant in refrigerators.

“By reducing the amount of ozone depleting refrigerants and potent greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere, this settlement will assist our efforts to control these two major global environmental problems,” Assistant Attorney General John Cruden of the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, said in a statement.

Photo Credit: Mike Mozart / Flickr)

Photo Credit: Mike Mozart / Flickr)

Over the next three years, Trader Joe’s will spend around $2 million to reduce refrigerator coolant leaks and improve compliance with the Clean Air Act. It will also pay a $500,000 civil penalty.

In addition, Trader Joe’s will implement a quarterly monitoring program to detect leaks more quickly and has set a goal of reducing its leak rate to an average of 12.1 percent. Grocery stores on average have a leak rate of 25 percent.

“Some of the refrigerants now in use by Trader Joe’s are up to 4,700 times more potent than carbon dioxide,” Alexis Strauss, acting regional administrator for EPA’s Pacific Southwest, said in a statement. Strauss estimated that the settlement would prevent the release of 31,000 metric tons of carbon-equivalent greenhouse gases.

The settlement with Trader Joe’s is the third such agreement with major grocery chains to reduce greenhouse gas emissions of potent ozone depleting gases. In 2013, Safeway agreed in a settlement to cut its emissions and in 2014, Costco made similar concessions.

Last year, the EPA issued new rules under the Clean Air Act to phase out the use of a slightly different greenhouse gas, hydroflourocarbons (HFCs), also used in refrigeration, as well as motor vehicle cooling, vending machines, aerosols, and foam insulation. Unlike HCFCs, HFCs are not ozone depleting, but they do have up to 12,000 times the warming power of carbon dioxide.

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