On 23 June, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the imposition of a $500,000 fine on the US retailer. In a proposed settlement with the DOJ and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to resolve violations of the Clean Air Act, disclosed on 21 June, Trader Joe’s agreed to reduce emissions of potent greenhouse gases from refrigeration equipment at all 453 of its stores. The retailer has now agreed to the terms of that settlement.

“Trader Joe’s looks forward to working with the EPA in its mission to reduce air pollution and protect the ozone layer and, with this agreement, has committed to reducing its emissions to a rate that matches the best of the industry,” said Alison Mochizuki, director of public relations for Trader Joe’s.

The United States had alleged that Trader Joe’s failed to properly perform leak repair and recordkeeping for refrigeration equipment in its grocery stores, as required under Title VI of the Clean Air Act (CAA). The CAA requires owners and operators of systems using ozone-depleting substances to reduce their consumption and emissions to the “lowest achievable level” and to “maximise the recapture and recycling of such substances”.

The settlement will see Trader Joe’s spend some $2 million over the next three years to reduce coolant leaks from refrigerators and improve overall compliance.

It requires the retailer to achieve an annual corporate-wide average leak rate of 12.1% from now until 2019, which is below the current grocery store sector average of 25%. The retailer company must also use non-ozone depleting, low-GWP refrigerants in all new stores and major remodels. At least 15 of these stores must use CO2.