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KUOW's environment beat brings you stories on the ongoing cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, alternative energy, the health of the Puget Sound, coal transportation and more. We're also partnered with several stations across the Northwest to bring you environmental news via EarthFix.

Costco Settles With Feds Over Clean Air Act Violations

Flickr Photo/Ryan Ozawa (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Costco, the nation's second largest retailer, has agreed to settle with the Environmental Protection Agency over violations of the Clean Air Act.

The EPA and the Department of Justice say the Issaquah based company has agreed to cut ozone-depleting emissions from its refrigeration equipment at half its stores across the country.

The agencies claimed that Costco failed to repair leaks between 2004 and 2007, and to maintain adequate maintenance records.

EPA regional administrator Jared Blumenfeld said the leaks of a refrigerant called R-22 were particularly damaging.

“These refrigerants are actually very potent greenhouse gases,” Blumenfeld said. “They're about 1,800 times more potent than CO2, so they lead to climate change and global warming.”

Costco will pay $335,000 in penalties. It has also agreed to improve its refrigeration management at 274 stores over the next three years. Officials said the improvements will cost about $2 million. The settlement needs to be approved by a judge.

The EPA said the reductions of Costco's greenhouse gas emissions will be the equivalent of the annual emissions from about 18,000 vehicles.

Costco did not respond to a request for comment.