Federal Settlement with Recycling Company Will Reduce Release of Ozone Depleting Refrigerants That Contribute to Climate Change
Company Will Implement Refrigerant Recovery Management Programs at 40 Facilities Across the United States and Pay a Civil Penalty
WASHINGTON (April 22, 2022) – The United States, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has reached a proposed settlement with Schnitzer Steel Inc. of Portland, Oregon, to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act and regulations designed to protect stratospheric ozone at 40 scrap metal recycling facilities throughout the United States.
If approved by the court, the settlement will require the company to pay a civil penalty of $1,550,000, implement compliance measures worth over $1,700,000 to prevent the release of ozone-depleting refrigerants and non-exempt substitutes from refrigerant-containing items during their processing and disposal, and complete an environmental mitigation project. The complaint filed together with the consent decree alleges that Schnitzer failed to recover refrigerant from small appliances and motor vehicle air conditioners before disposal or to verify from the supplier that the refrigerant had been properly recovered prior to delivery to Schnitzer’s facilities.
“Many refrigerants are potent greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming if released into the atmosphere,” said Larry Starfield, Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This settlement will help protect our climate by ensuring that these chemicals are managed properly at 40 recycling facilities across the country.”
“To help protect stratospheric ozone and reduce the risks of climate change, the Department of Justice will seek to ensure companies like Schnitzer comply with the Clean Air Act when recycling appliances and motor vehicles containing harmful refrigerants,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
Under the settlement, Schnitzer must implement an EPA-approved Refrigerant Recovery Management Program (RRMP) at its 40 U.S. facilities. The RRMP includes, among other things: installation of refrigerant recovery systems at Schnitzer’s facilities; screening procedures for scrap appliances and vehicles; new forms for statements and contracts to verify any refrigerant recovery from appliances and motor vehicles prior to receipt by Schnitzer; notices to customers regarding proper procedures for delivering items currently or previously containing refrigerants; employee training on procedures for ensuring compliance with regulations designed to prevent the release of refrigerants; and recordkeeping and reporting obligations.
The settlement also requires Schnitzer to perform an environmental mitigation project involving the destruction of all R-12 refrigerant in scrapped appliances and automobiles received at its facilities. R-12 contains chlorofluorocarbons and has over 10,000 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.
Today’s action was filed by the United States, on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency.
The proposed consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. To view the proposed consent decree or to submit a comment during the public comment period, visit: Proposed Consent Decrees