Trader Joes Fined $500,000 for Violating the Clean Air Act

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you or your commercial customers are still using R-22 it is time to switch. If there was ever a bigger reason to switch it’s the United State’s Government sniffing around your business and looking for anything that they can to fine your company. This happened to the grocery chain Trader Joes this year. It was announced yesterday that Trader Joes will be settling a suit in court with the Environmental Protection Agency.

The suit declared that Trader Joes failed to track the service records of it’s refrigerant equipment and failed to provide data on their compliance records to the EPA. Even though this just boils down to paperwork and tracking it resulted in Trader Joes violating the federal Clean Air Act. Instead of fighting the lawsuit from the EPA Trader Joes agreed to settle for $500,000. Think about that for a second, $500,000 for not tracking and filing paperwork correctly.

Did I mention that there’s more? On top of the $500,000 fine paid to the United States Government Trader Joes also has agreed to spend two million dollars over the next three years in an effort to reduce leaks and Greenhouse Gases emissions across all of their grocery stores. On top of that Trader Joes is forming a new corporate department specifically for management of refrigerant regulations by the Federal Government. This department will monitor leak rates of their refrigerant units and ensure that they do not exceed over an average leak rate of 12.1%. (The current average for grocery stories is 25%)

In addition Trader Joes agreed to use non O-Zone depleting refrigerants in all of it’s new stores. They could get away with using common HFC refrigerants for their new stores but they also agreed that fifteen of their new stories will use refrigerants with a low global warming potential. (Low GWP refrigerants could be CO2, Opteon Refrigerants, or Solstice refrigerants.) Trader Joe’s compliance and willingness to make these changes shows just how fearful they are of the Federal Government’s EPA.

Similar lawsuits have been filed by the Environmental Protection Agency against other grocery store chains such as Costco and Safeway. If you are a grocery chain manager, or you have customers that are, I would highly recommend they review their refrigerant record keeping, what type of refrigerants they are using, and what plans they have in the future.