JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A supermarket company has agreed to reduce emissions of ozone-depleting gases from refrigeration equipment at more than 500 stores in seven southeastern states, federal authorities said Friday.
The Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency reached the agreement with Bi-Lo parent Southeastern Grocers Inc. and its subsidiaries to resolve violations of the Clean Air Act, according to a DOJ statement.
The Jacksonville, Fla.-based company also owns and operates three other chains: Winn-Dixie, Fresco y Más and Harveys Supermarket.
The supermarket company failed to promptly repair leaks of refrigerator coolants, failed to keep adequate service records and failed to provide information about its compliance record, the statement said.
The company will spend about $4.2 million over the next three years to reduce coolant leaks and to improve compliance at 576 stores. It will also pay a $300,000 civil penalty.
The settlement will help assure the company's "future compliance with the Clean Air Act's ozone-depletion program — by requiring leak monitoring, centralized computer record-keeping, and searchable electronic reporting to the EPA," assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of DOJ's Environment and Natural Resources Division said in a statement.
"These steps will not only help to prevent damage to the environment, but should also help save energy," another EPA enforcement official said.
The company did not immediately respond to phone and email messages seeking comment Friday.
The agreement says the company will maintain an annual, company-wide average leak rate of 17% through 2022. The release says the grocery store sector average leak rate is 25%.
Under the Clean Air Act, owners and operators of commercial refrigeration equipment with more than 50 pounds (22.6 kilograms) of ozone-depleting refrigerants must repair leaks within 30 days.
The company's website says its stores are found in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina.
DOJ says the settlement is the fourth in a string of grocery refrigerant cases. Previous settlements were reached with Safeway Inc., Costco Wholesale Corp. and Trader Joe's Co.
Bi-Lo operates nine supermarkets in the Charleston region between Moncks Corner and Edisto Island. It recently shuttered its eighth supermarket in the Charleston market since 2016. The Goose Creek store on St. James Avenue went dark Sunday.
About 70 Bi-Lo locations remain in South Carolina along with one Harveys in Ridgeland near Beaufort. The company, which was founded in the Upstate, does not have any Winn-Dixie or Fresco y Mas stores in the state.