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Safeway Agrees to Stop Leaks of Refrigerant Chemical

Safeway Inc., the second-largest U.S. supermarket chain, agreed to curb leaks at 659 stores of a refrigerant that causes climate change and depletes ozone, and pay a $600,000 fine to the federal government.

The settlement today with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is the most extensive in terms of facilities under Clean Air Act rules that govern refrigeration equipment, the agency said in a statement. Safeway violated the law by failing to promptly repair leaks of hydro-chlorofluorocarbon, a greenhouse gas that is used as a coolant. It will spend $4.1 million to reduce those releases, the EPA said.

“This is a critical step to assure that companies that make, use and handle these dangerous ozone-destroying and heat-trapping chemicals stop leaking them into the air,” David Doniger, policy director for climate at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in an e-mail.

Hydro-chlorofluorocarbon, or HCFC-22, is as much as 1,800 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of global warming emissions, according to the EPA. The steps Safeway agreed to take will prevent future releases of more than 100,000 pounds of ozone-depleting refrigerants, according to the EPA.

Teena Massingill, a spokeswoman for Pleasanton, California-based Safeway, didn’t immediately respond to telephone and e-mail messages.

The agreement, filed with the complaint today in federal court in San Francisco, resolves the lawsuit brought under the Clean Air Act.

The case is U.S. v. Safeway Inc., 13-cv-04086, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

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