Enforcement Actions under Title VI of the Clean Air Act
EPA regulations under Title VI of the Clean Air Act (CAA) are designed to protect the ozone layerozone layerThe region of the stratosphere containing the bulk of atmospheric ozone. The ozone layer lies approximately 15-40 kilometers (10-25 miles) above the Earth's surface, in the stratosphere. Depletion of this layer by ozone depleting substances (ODS) will lead to higher UVB levels, which in turn will cause increased skin cancers and cataracts and potential damage to some marine organisms, plants, and plastics. The science page (http://www.epa.gov/ozone/science/index.html) offers much more detail on the science of ozone depletion. and to provide for a smooth transition away from ozone-depleting substances (ODSODSA compound that contributes to stratospheric ozone depletion. ODS include chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), halons, methyl bromide, carbon tetrachloride, hydrobromofluorocarbons, chlorobromomethane, and methyl chloroform. ODS are generally very stable in the troposphere and only degrade under intense ultraviolet light in the stratosphere. When they break down, they release chlorine or bromine atoms, which then deplete ozone. A detailed list (http://www.epa.gov/ozone/science/ods/index.html) of class I and class II substances with their ODPs, GWPs, and CAS numbers are available.).
EPA is also charged with enforcing these regulations. Enforcement actions range from civil fines to criminal prosecutions. Enforcement is performed within EPA by the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
If you suspect or witness unlawful releases of ODS refrigerant or other violations of CAA regulations, report an environmental violation to EPA. See a list of fugitives accused of violating environmental laws, including smuggling ODS and evading arrest, for more information.
What are the penalties for purchasing or possessing illegal CFCs/HCFCs?
The most immediate consequence of possessing illegal CFCs/HCFCs is having them confiscated. The U.S. Customs Service, under its laws and regulations, may confiscate any goods that enter the United States illegally. The U.S. Customs Service can confiscate illegally imported CFCs/HCFCs all the way down the distribution chain. Purchasing your CFCs/HCFCs from a reputable wholesaler or distributor does not relieve you of responsibility. If the CFCs/HCFCs you possess were illegally smuggled into the United States, you could lose the valuable product, even though you paid for it.
There are many other potential consequences of purchasing or possessing illegal CFCs/HCFCs. If the U.S. Customs Service confiscates your CFCs/HCFCs, you might become the subject of an investigation by the Customs Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Investigations of your company might involve interviewing your employees and reviewing your records. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) also might decide to audit you or your company regarding payment of the excise taxes on CFCs.
If you knowingly purchase or possess CFCs/HCFCs illegally smuggled into the United States, you could face severe penalties.
How Can I Be Sure the CFCs/HCFCs I Purchase are Legal?
To make sure you purchase or possess legal CFCs/HCFCs, you should know where the specific brand was produced and the name of the manufacturer. Making sure you have legal material that meets the industry purity standard is good business practice. The U.S. EPA recently identified sales of a product marketed as Cool Penguin “F-12.” Sold in small cans through online retail platforms for motor vehicle air conditioner use, the mixture consisted of CFC-12, CFC-114, HCFC-142b and HCFC-22, along with non-ozone depleting components. Under current regulations, not only is the import of these cans illegal, no person may sell or distribute, or offer for sale or distribution, any regulated ozone-depleting substance that they know, or have reason to know, was imported illegally (e.g., without appropriate allowances or after the phaseout date for that chemical). For more information on the phaseout of ODS, please visit EPA ODS Phaseout.
Before you buy CFCs/HCFCs, you should ask the seller for documents of prior ownership of the product (and a laboratory analysis of the quality). Investigating the source of the material and the chain of ownership is your responsibility. If the material was imported, you should know when, where, and from whom it was imported. You also should ensure that the packaging for the material is appropriate. Illegally imported refrigerant is sometimes packaged in wrong size containers or fixed with improper valves. Remember, if you purchase or possess CFCs/HCFCs that entered the United States illegally, the U.S. Customs Service can confiscate the product.
Partial List of Enforcement Actions under Title VI of the CAA
The following is a partial list of recent, major completed cases.
Additional information on other cases, including older ones, can be found at EPA's Enforcement website here.
Southeastern Grocers Inc., owners and operators of regional grocery store chains BI-LO LLC, Winn-Dixie Stores Inc., Fresco y Más and Harveys Supermarket, have agreed to reduce emissions of ozone-depleting gases from refrigeration equipment at 576 stores under a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act. Under the settlement, finalized January 21, 2020, Southeastern Grocers will spend an estimated $4.2 million over the next three years to reduce their company-wide average leak rate to 17% and upgrade fifteen stores to advanced refrigerants that have lower global warming potentials and do not deplete the ozone layer. The company will also pay a $300,000 civil penalty.
Trident Seafoods Corporation has agreed to reduce emissions of ozone-depleting substances from refrigeration equipment on its vessels, under a proposed settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Justice to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act. Under the settlement, Trident will spend up to $23 million to reduce refrigerant leaks from refrigerators and other equipment, use non-ozone depleting refrigerants, and improve company-wide compliance. The company will also pay a $900,000 civil penalty.
Mahmoud Mohamed Alkabbani, the owner of USA Car Parts, entered into an agreement with a Chinese company to purchase R-22, which was packaged in cylinders bearing counterfeit “Glacier” trademarks. The 2013 contract with the Chinese company listed the product as R-134a – which does not deplete the ozone layer – but a second, secret agreement called for the Chinese company to actually sell R-22 to Alkabbani.
Terminix International Company LP and U.S. Virgin Islands operation Terminix International USVI LLC were sentenced for violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Virgin Islands pest control company illegally applied fumigants containing methyl bromide in multiple residential locations in the U.S. Virgin Islands, including the condominium resort complex in St. John where a family of four fell seriously ill in March 2015 after the unit below them was fumigated. According to the plea recommendation, TERMINIX LP and TERMINIX, USVI are to pay a total of $10 million in criminal fines, community service, and restitution payments. Under the agreed recommendation, TERMINIX, USVI will pay $4 million in fines and $1 million in restitution to the EPA for response and clean-up costs at the St. John resort. TERMINIX LP will pay a fine of $4 million and will perform community service related to training commercial pesticide applicators in fumigation practices and a separate health services training program.
U.S. Seafoods of Seattle will implement enhanced leak detection practices and replace freezer equipment to address violations of the Clean Air Act resulting from releases of ozone-depleting substances from two of its fish processing vessels in Alaska. EPA investigators discovered that in 2012 the freezers on two vessels owned by U.S. Seafoods -- the F/V Seafreeze Alaska and the F/V Alliance -- were leaking an ozone-depleting refrigerant called R-22. EPA found that the vessel owners and operators failed to repair the leaks in a timely manner and failed to confirm that the freezers were not leaking when finally repaired. U.S. Seafoods will pay a $135,000 penalty, replace some or all of its current R-22 freezers with units that use ammonia, and retire those not replaced. The company will also implement enhanced leak detection and repair practices.
On or about June 19, 2012, Byron Stuckey stole an air conditioning unit from a house located in Wichita, Kansas. The defendant knowingly released the HCFC-22 into the atmosphere when he cut the copper tubing refrigerant lines to the air conditioner he was stealing. Stuckey was sentenced to 12 months of probation on the federal charges.
Under a settlement with the EPA, two pesticide distributors, Superior-Angran LLC and Superior Angran Caribbean Inc. of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, were required to come into compliance with the Clean Air Act and federal pesticides law. The two companies also agreed to pay a $210,000 fine and provide professional training for pesticide applicators. From 2013 to 2015, Superior-Angran purchased, stored and sold two pesticides containing methyl bromide without complying with the Clean Air Act’s ozone-depleting substances reporting and recordkeeping requirements. Superior Angran Caribbean exported the same two pesticides containing methyl bromide without complying with the Clean Air Act’s ozone-depleting substances reporting requirements.
August 10, 2016: Air Conditioner Thief Sentenced for Violating Clean Air Act
Shannon Wayne Harrold, 48, of Glenford, Ohio, was sentenced in U.S. District Court to 54 months in prison and ordered to pay $29,045 in restitution for violating the Clean Air Act by cutting the tubing on air conditioning units he was stealing, which released a regulated refrigerant into the environment. In August and September 2015, Harrold engaged in a scheme to steal air conditioner units in order to sell the copper and parts from the units at scrap yards. He targeted suburbs in Central Ohio, stealing several units and dismantling them on site. “Refrigerants deplete the ozone layer which protects people from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation such as skin cancer, so it’s imperative that they are handled properly and in accordance with the law,” said Jeffrey Martinez, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Ohio. “Through the illegal venting of refrigerants and the sale of stolen air conditioner parts, the defendant violated the Clean Air Act, which protects public health and clean air. EPA and its law enforcement partners are committed to the investigation and prosecution of illegal conduct that jeopardizes public safety.”
The national grocery store chain Trader Joe’s Company has agreed to reduce emissions from refrigeration equipment at 453 of its stores under a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and the EPA to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act. Under the settlement, Trader Joe’s agreed to spend an estimated $2 million over three years to reduce coolant leaks from refrigerators and other equipment and improve company-wide compliance. The company also agreed to pay a $500,000 civil penalty.
Under a settlement with the EPA and U.S. Department of Justice, Parkway Iron and Metal Co. agreed to pay $145,000 and spend approximately $260,000 to install pollution controls for alleged Clean Air Act violations at its scrap metal recycling business in Clifton, N.J. The company was fined for improperly shredding dozens of refrigerators, freezers and air conditioners without first removing refrigerants, including chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HFCs).
Two seafood processing and cold storage companies, Ocean Gold Seafoods Inc. and Ocean Cold LLC, have agreed to cut their releases of ozone-depleting and greenhouse gases from leaking refrigeration equipment at their facilities in Westport, Washington. In the settlement, the Ocean Companies agreed to pay $495,000 in penalties for violations of the federal Clean Air Act and Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. In addition to the penalties, as part of the settlement, the Ocean Companies have agreed to fix all refrigerant leaks and implement facility-wide improvements expected to cost about $260,000.
Enviro-Safe Refrigerants, Inc., of Pekin, Illinois, has agreed to pay a $300,000 civil penalty and cease marketing and sale of unapproved flammable hydrocarbon refrigerants as substitutes for ODS. Enviro-Safe allegedly violated CAA requirements through the marketing and sale of two flammable hydrocarbon refrigerant products, ES 22a and ES 502a, as substitutes for ODS without providing the requisite information to EPA for review and approval. EPA has not approved any flammable hydrocarbon as a replacement for ODS in systems not specifically designed for flammable refrigerants and has warned that use of flammable refrigerants in those systems presents a risk of fire or explosion.
A settlement between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Navy will help reduce potentially harmful discharges of ozone-depleting substances at the Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia. Under the settlement, the Navy will pay an $83,900 penalty for violations of the Clean Air Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The Clean Air Act violations pertained to regulations designed to reduce discharges of ozone-depleting substances used as coolants in air conditioning units. EPA alleged that the facility did not perform leak rate calculations when it serviced the units. The Navy has implemented improved training and recordkeeping to help ensure proper servicing of equipment.
January 8, 2015: DuPont Fined for Air Pollution at Deepwater, New Jersey
E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company (DuPont) has been fined $531,000 for alleged CAA violations at its chemical manufacturing plant in Deepwater, New Jersey. EPA fined DuPont for improper maintenance and repair of two large refrigeration units. When properly maintained, the systems are designed to minimize chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from leaking into the environment. The company also failed to accurately submit reports to EPA under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.
November 7, 2014: Air Conditioner Thief Sentenced to 31 Months for Violating Clean Air Act
Martin C. Eldridge III, 35, of Columbus, was sentenced in U.S. District Court to 31 months in prison for violating the Clean Air Act when he cut the tubing on air conditioning units he was stealing and released HCFC-22 into the environment. Eldridge and others stole at least 49 air conditioner units between August and October 2013 in order to sell the copper and parts from the units at scrap yards. When he cut the tubing that connected the air conditioner to the business or residence, a refrigerant known as HCFC-22 was released. Following prison time, Eldridge will be under court supervision for 12 months during which time he must perform 200 hours of community service.
Metal Dynamics, a Detroit scrap metal and iron recycling company, has agreed to pay $110,000 in penalties and invest $400,000 to resolve allegations that it violated the CAA. Under the settlement, Metal Dynamics agreed to implement a CAA compliance program at its facility to eliminate the harmful release of ODS and has also agreed to modify its torch cutting of metals to keep harmful particulate emissions at or below legal limits.
Costco Wholesale Corporation has agreed to cut its emissions of ODS and greenhouse gases from leaking refrigeration equipment at more than half of its stores nationwide. Costco will pay $335,000 in penalties for federal CAA violations and will fix refrigerant leaks and make other improvements at 274 of its stores, which EPA estimates will cost about $2 million over the next three years. Costco violated the CAA by failing to promptly repair leaks of a hydrochloroflurocarbon (HCFC) refrigerant, HCFC-22, between 2004 and 2007. Costco also failed to keep adequate records of the servicing of its refrigeration equipment to prevent harmful leaks.
eAir, LLC (eAir), a Florida corporation with its headquarters in Miami, was convicted and sentenced in federal court in Miami in connection with the illegal sale and distribution of refrigeration equipment that contained restricted ozone depleting substances, in violation of the federal Clean Air Act. eAir pled guilty for knowingly violating a requirement and rule relating to stratospheric ozone protection through the sale and distribution in interstate commerce of a product manufactured on or after January 1, 2010 containing the refrigerant gas HCFC-22. eAir was sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay a $200,000 criminal fine. In addition, as a special condition of probation, eAir was ordered to implement and enforce a comprehensive Environmental Compliance Plan, to pay community service in the amount of $75,000, and to reimburse the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for costs incurred in storing illegal merchandise.
In a settlement agreement with the United States, Safeway, a national grocery store chain, has agreed to pay a $600,000 civil penalty and implement a corporate-wide plan to significantly reduce ODS emissions from refrigeration equipment at 659 of its stores nationwide, estimated to cost approximately $4.1 million. The settlement involves the largest number of facilities ever under the CAA’s regulations governing refrigeration equipment.
Alexander Morrissette, age 27, of Monroe, Georgia was sentenced to 78 months in federal prison after having pleaded guilty to two counts of knowingly releasing ozone-depleting substances into the environment. The term of imprisonment is to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. Morrissette was ordered to make restitution of $178,846.81, the amount of money needed to repair several commercial air conditioners illegally harvested for scrap metal. Randall Scott Wimpey, a Co-Defendant, age 31, of Snellville, Georgia, was previously sentenced to 15 months in federal prison.
Icicle Seafood, Inc., has agreed to resolve a series of CAA violations associated with HCFC-22 refrigerant. The violations include failure to repair refrigerant leaks in a timely manner, failure to ensure adequate repairs to refrigeration appliances before resuming operation, failure to possess a certified refrigerant recovery device for use when performing service on refrigeration appliances, and inadequate records of repair service on refrigeration appliances.
American Seafoods Co. LLC and Pacific Longline Co. LLC have agreed to a legal settlement that requires them to phase out the use of ozone-depleting refrigerants, improve shipboard refrigeration systems at a cost of at least $9 million, and pay a $700,000 penalty to resolve CAA violations. The litigation stemmed from the improper release and illegal import of ozone-depleting refrigerants.
Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. (BIV), has agreed to pay a $300,000 civil penalty to settle a series of alleged violations of the CAA at its veterinary health products facility in St. Joseph, Missouri. The complaint alleges that the facility’s annualized leak rates of one or more of its industrial refrigeration systems exceeded 35 percent on one or more occasions during a five-year period. It also alleges BIV failed to perform leak testing and follow-up verification tests, develop retrofit or retirement plans for leaking equipment, complete retrofit or replacement of leaking equipment, and maintain proper service and maintenance records for its equipment. BIV has also agreed to replace refrigeration equipment at its Fort Dodge, Iowa, facility, switching older equipment that use ODS for new units that do not use ODS.
Da Yang Seafoods, Inc., in Astoria, Oregon, will pay nearly $27,000 in penalties for failing to keep proper records for its refrigeration equipment. The equipment uses HCFC refrigerants. From July 2006 to August 2007, Da Yang serviced its blast freezer at least 22 times and failed to properly document the dates of service.
Cedar’s Mediterranean Foods, Inc., a food manufacturing company, faces a possible $108,320 fine for 12 violations of the federal CAA. According to a complaint, the company failed to repair leaks, perform initial and follow-up tests after repairing leaks, and keep equipment servicing records for refrigeration equipment containing the refrigerant HCFC-22.
Brendan Clery was sentenced to 18 months in prison for illegally importing HCFC-22 into the United States. He was also ordered to pay a $40,000 criminal fine and forfeit illegal proceeds exceeding $900,000. Clery illegally smuggled approximately 20,460 cylinders of restricted HCFC-22 with a market value of $1,438,270. At no time did Clery, or his company Lateral Investments, hold unexpended consumption allowances that would have allowed them to legally import the refrigerant. This case is part of a larger criminal investigation known as "Operation Catch-22."
On September 4, 2009, Victor Diaz, doing business as Reliance Trading Company, attempted to illegally import two hundred 30 pound cylinders of HCFC-22 from Mexico into the United States, through California's Calexico East Port of Entry. CBP officials said that when Diaz was asked for his permit to import R-22, through a broker Diaz supplied CBP officials with documents unrelated to the importation of R-22. CBP officials added that prior to this incident; Diaz and Reliance Trading Company were told by CBP officials at another border crossing station that prior permission from U.S. EPA is required for the legal importation of R-22.
June 14, 2011: 4 Defendants Sentenced
Beginning in early August 2008, Danny and Sabrina Arnot, Beard, Joyner, and a fourth defendant, targeted businesses with commercial-sized air conditioners in Stephens, Hall, Franklin, and Hart Counties. Arnot, working with his wife or with his other accomplices, Beard and Joyner, dismantled the air conditioning units so that they could steal the copper and aluminum parts. To steal the copper parts, they had to cut a copper coil in each unit which released HCFC-22 into the atmosphere. The defendants were sentenced as follows: Arnot was sentenced to time served, 36 months probation, to perform 240 hours of community service and to pay $1,300 special assessment. Beard was sentenced to time served, 36 months probation, to perform 240 hours of community service and to pay $1,000 special assessment. Joiner was sentenced to time served, 36 months probation, to perform 240 hours of community service and to pay $200 special assessment. All three share $13,000 restitution to be paid to the victim who is the owner of Dunlap Stainless located in Gainesville, Georgia.
Preferred Freezer Services, a refrigerated warehouse company, has agreed to pay $75,000 to settle a case brought by EPA for CAA violations at three cold-storage facilities in Massachusetts. EPA alleged that three facilities failed to certify to EPA that they had appropriate CFC recovery or recycling equipment. Further, at two of the facilities, a company technician serviced appliances containing CFCs on various occasions without being certified by an approved certification program.
EPA alleged that Metal Management West, a scrap metal operator in Salt Lake City, Utah, accepted appliances and motor vehicles without verification that the refrigerant had been properly removed in accordance with EPA regulations. EPA and the company have entered into a consent agreement in which Metal Management will pay a $75,000 penalty for the alleged violations.
November 3, 2010: Mass. Plumbing Supply Company Cited for Illegal Sales of Refrigerant
Based on the findings of an undercover inspector, EPA has proposed a penalty of $30,000 against a Fall River plumbing and supply company charged with selling ozone-depleting refrigerants in violation of EPA regulations. According to EPA’s New England office, Robinson Plumbing and Heating Supply Company sold ozone-depleting refrigerants to non-certified technicians at two separate sales outlets in Massachusetts, in violation of the CAA.
The city of Tacoma, Washington, will pay nearly $225,000 in penalties for the release of CFCs stemming from its refrigerated appliance disposal service, according to a consent decree lodged by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of EPA. The city will also pay nearly $300,000 for new pollution-reduction projects in Tacoma.
Mar-Cone Appliance Parts Co. (Marcone), a Missouri corporation with its headquarters in St. Louis, was convicted and sentenced today in connection with the illegal receipt, purchase, and sale of ozone-depleting refrigerant gas that had been smuggled into the United States contrary to the Clean Air Act. Marcone pled guilty to knowingly receiving, buying, selling and facilitating the transportation, concealment, and sale of approximately 100,898 kilograms of HCFC-22, which had been illegally smuggled into the United States contrary to the Clean Air Act. Marcone was sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay a $500,000 criminal fine. Marcone was also ordered to perform community service by making a $400,000 payment to the Southern Environmental Enforcement Training Fund, a not-for-profit training organization. In addition, as a special condition of probation, Marcone was ordered to implement and enforce a comprehensive Environmental Compliance Plan. Finally, Marcone was ordered to forfeit to the United States $190,534.70, which represents proceeds received as a result of the crime.
Dov Shellef, a businessman from Great Neck, New York, was convicted on 86 counts of conspiring to defraud the Internal Revenue Service in the collection of approximately $1.9 million in excise taxes due on sales of CFC-113. The jury also convicted Shellef for subscribing to false corporate tax returns, wire fraud, and money laundering. Shellef faces a maximum prison sentence of five years for the conspiracy, three years for the false corporate tax return, 20 years for the wire fraud convictions, and 20 years for the money laundering convictions.