Saturday, September 6, 2014
EPA describes this week's settlement between the United States and Costco as indicative of a more aggressive policy by the federal government to use the Clean Air Act to prosecute the largest GHG emitters, including grocery stores -- a continuing shift in federal priorities that will be of interest to state and local government law practitioners and scholars, as well as those of us who focus on the intersection of local land use law and climate change.
In a settlement announced on Wednesday by the DOJ and EPA, Costco agreed to cut its emissions of GHGs from refrigeration equipment at more than half of its stores nationwide. Costco will also pay $335,000 in penalties for CAA violations and improve refrigerant management at 274 stores at an estimated cost of $2 million over the next three years.
Sam Hirsch, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division, responded to the settlement, saying
"Industry needs to lead the way in abandoning harmful chemicals in favor of using and developing greener, environmentally friendly alternatives to protect our health and our climate."
EPA and DOJ announced that the measures required by the settlement are expected to reduce Costco’s GHG emissions by the equivalent of approximately 30,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. The GHG at issue in the settlement is actually hydrochlorofluorocarbon (from leaks of the refrigerant R-22), which is a more potent GHG than carbon dioxide.
Some may question whether the settlement requires enough of Costco, the nation's second largest retailer, given annual revenues of over $100 billion (in 2013, as reported by EPA).
The proposed settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.
Read the proposed settlement and related documents here.
By Professor Sarah J. Adams-Schoen, Director of Touro Law's Land Use & Sustainable Development Institute. You can follow the Institute's blog here, and contact Professor Adams-Schoen by email or phone ([email protected], (631)761-7137).