One of the largest seafood processing companies in the U.S. agreed to a massive settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice over alleged Clean Air Act violations. Under the terms of the agreement, the Seattle-based fishery will spend $23 million to reduce emissions of ozone-depleting substances from the refrigeration equipment on its vessels, and also pay a $900,000 civil penalty.
The money will go toward reducing coolant leaks from refrigerators and other equipment, employing alternative refrigerants and improving company-wide compliance.
"As a result of today's settlement, [the seafood company] will implement common-sense methods to reduce releases of ozone depleting refrigerants into the atmosphere," EPA Pacific Northwest Regional Administrator Chris Hladick said in a statement. "With millions of pounds of refrigerants still in circulation in the U.S., it's imperative that companies properly maintain and repair their appliances to ensure these don't leak out and harm the ozone layer."
One of America's largest seafood companies is alleged to have leaked 200,000 pounds of an ozone-depleting refrigerant into the atmosphere.
The company owns and operate four factory processor vessels, one freighter vessel, nearly 30 catcher and tender vessels and 10 land-based facilities in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, which all rely on thousands of pounds of refrigerants known to deplete the ozone. The EPA alleged that from 2009 to 2016, the company went years without repairing leaks of the refrigerant R-22, an ozone-depleting hydrochlorofluorocarbon, which allowed its appliances to release 200,000 pounds of the harmful substance into the atmosphere.
The company's failure to promptly repair the leaks was a violation of CAA regulations that require owners or operators of industrial refrigeration equipment containing over 50 pounds of ozone-depleting refrigerants to repair leaks within 30 days.
The EPA also accused the company of failing to create adequate servicing and compliance records on at least 289 occasions, and at times using uncertified technicians to perform work on refrigerant equipment.
Part of the $23 million settlement will go towards retrofitting or retiring 23 refrigeration appliances used on 14 marine vessels to switch to an alternative refrigerant that does less harm to the ozone layer, according to Environmental Leader. The EPA claims that these changes should result in nearly 100,000 pounds of harmful refrigerant being removed from use, and will prevent future leaks from doing as much damage to the environment.
The company has also committed to conducting routine leak inspections of all appliances, installing leak detectors to monitor appliances, adding fluorescent dye into appliances to assist with leak detection, compiling information that will help identify common failure points on appliances and promptly repairing all leaks once they are discovered.
The settlement also institutes a corporate-wide refrigerant leak cap, and requires the company to allow a third-party auditor to review its compliance with the consent decree and regulations.
"The total estimated emission reductions from this settlement are equal to the amount from over 143,000 passenger vehicles driven in one year, the CO2 emissions from 734 million pounds of coal burned, or the carbon sequestered by over 790,000 acres of forests in one year," the EPA claimed in a statement.
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