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EPA settles with Utah hotel owners over CFC air releases

Release Date: 2/27/2002
Contact Information:
EPA 303-312-6912,

Release Date: 2/27/2002
Contact Information:
EPA 303-312-7815,

Release Date: 2/27/2002
Contact Information:
EPA 303-312-6603,

Release Date: 2/27/2002
Contact Information:
EPA 800-227-8917

SALT LAKE CITY – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced it has reached a $100,000 settlement with the former owners of the Airport Inn and Suites to resolve charges that hotel employees allegedly violated Clean Air Act (CAA) rules covering stratospheric ozone protection.

The violations, which EPA contends occurred in August 2000, involved the removal of 20 room air conditioner units and seven small refrigerators from the hotel. EPA issued a complaint in June 2001, that alleged when hotel employees removed the equipment, they cut the refrigerant lines on the appliances venting ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) into the air.

EPA received information about the actions from a former Airport Inn employee. After investigating, EPA issued a complaint alleging 27 violations of the CAA against Lightfoot’s Inc. (the hotel owner at the time of the incident) EPA’s charges against the company included:
illegal releases of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) into the air,
improper disposal of appliances,
failure to capture the CFC refrigerant from the appliances using certified CFC recovery/recycling equipment, and
failure to use an EPA certified technician to remove the refrigerant.

“Many substitute coolants are available for refrigeration equipment that previously needed CFC coolants to operate,” noted EPA’s Regional Enforcement Director Carol Rushin. “Additionally, appropriate removal and disposal of coolants containing CFCs is much better for the ozone layer – which we all need to survive – and much less costly for an individual or business than the consequences of getting caught violating the law.” Had Airport Inn and Suites contracted to properly remove the refrigerant prior to disposal of the units the costs to the hotel operators would have been about $1,350 or $50 per unit.

EPA routinely conducts unannounced inspections at facilities where the service or repair of air conditioning systems are subject to the CFC regulations. Some of these businesses operate from residential homes, which EPA inspects as well. Businesses and individuals who knowingly vent, or disperse CFC-containing appliances will face significant monetary penalties from EPA lawsuits.

Since 1993, the CAA has banned the release of refrigerants containing CFCs during the service, maintenance and disposal of air conditioning and refrigeration equipment. Prior to disposal, the refrigerant must be removed from the appliance by EPA certified technicians using approved CFC recovery/recycling equipment.

Owners of hotels, restaurants, businesses, etc. should understand their responsibilities for the proper removal and disposal of appliances containing CFCs. Lists of technicians certified to remove CFC refrigerants prior to disposal are available through EPA’s regional office in Denver (800-227-8917).

The protective ozone layer is located in the upper atmosphere 30 miles above the earth’s surface. When allowed to escape into the air, the CFC molecule breaks apart releasing chlorine, which then attacks the earth’s ozone layer. A single chlorine atom can destroy more than 100,000 ozone molecules. According to many renowned scientists, the ozone layer already is significantly depleted over Antarctica, and, to a lesser extent, over North America, Europe and other populated areas.

“EPA and scientists worldwide have concluded that CFCs damage the stratospheric ozone layer”, said Rushin. “Without this layer of gas to screen us from the sun’s powerful and harmful ultraviolet radiation, people would suffer from increased sunburn, cataracts and skin cancer. Aside from the health effects, crops would be damaged – affecting many peoples livelihoods and the economy – and entire marine ecosystems would be wiped out.”

Without admitting to any of the allegations the former and current owners of the Airport Inn and Suites agreed to pay the civil penalty and comply with all applicable laws in the future.

Questions about ozone depletion or EPA rules concerning CFCs may be directed to the Agency’s Stratospheric Ozone Hotline at 800-296-1996.