Costco is fined, to fix refrigerant leaks in Clean Air Act case

Shoppers push a trolley outside a Costco Wholesale store in Los Angeles, California March 6, 2013. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

(Reuters) - Costco Wholesale Corp will pay a $335,000 fine and spend about $2 million over three years to fix refrigerant leaks and make other improvements at 274 stores to settle allegations that the warehouse club operator violated the federal Clean Air Act.

The U.S. Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday said Costco failed from 2004 to 2007 to promptly repair leaks from its refrigeration equipment of the refrigerant R-22, an ozone-depleting greenhouse gas with roughly 1,800 times more global warming potential than carbon dioxide.

Costco also failed to keep adequate records of its servicing of refrigeration equipment to prevent leaks, the agencies said.

The settlement requires Costco to retrofit or replace commercial refrigeration equipment at 30 stores. Costco must also adopt procedures designed to prevent and repair coolant leaks and reduce its leak rate by at least 20 percent by 2017.

Based in Issaquah, Washington, Costco recently said it operates 466 warehouse stores in the United States and Puerto Rico, and 660 worldwide.

Costco did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Dan Grebler