Bakery company settles federal refrigerants suit

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

A third baking company made a settlement this week with the US
government over its use of ozone-depleting refrigerants.

The suit and settlement is part of an ongoing programme by environmental authorities to crack down on the food industry for releasing such pollutants into the atmosphere.

Under an agreement filed in the federal district court in Chicago, Newly Weds Foods said it will take steps to prevent the continued release of ozone-depleting refrigerants -- such as hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) --that destroy stratospheric ozone.

Under the settlement with the federal justice department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Newly Weds will retrofit or retire all of its 39 industrial refrigeration equipment systems in the US that are designed to hold more than 50 pounds of HCFCs.

The company's systems will use only non-ozone-depleting refrigerants by July 1, 2008. The company will also pay a civil penalty of $125,000 for alleged past leaks of ozone-depleting refrigerants.

The settlement resolves a suit alleging that Newly Weds violated EPA regulations relating to industrial refrigerant leak repair, testing, recordkeeping and reporting.

"Today's settlement demonstrates this administration's commitment to achieve the benefits envisioned by the Clean Air Act,"​ said Granta Nakayama, the EPA's assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance. "We are pleased that after violating our ozone protection requirements, Newly Weds is now committed to a settlement that is good environmental policy and good business practice."

HCFC refrigerants deplete the stratospheric ozone layer, eventually allowing increasing amounts of cancer-causing ultraviolet rays from the sun to strike the earth. Production of some of these chemicals was stopped in 1995. Federal law controls their use and handling.

Newly Weds makes breading, frozen ice cream cakes, and other baked goods, as well as seasonings, batter, and capsicums used for pickles, sauces, and peppers. The company owns and operates equipment that contains 39 industrial refrigeration systems at its eight facilities, located in Chicago, Watertown Mass., Cleveland, Gerald, Mo., Horn Lake, Miss.; Bethlehem, Pa.; Springdale, Ark.; and Modesto, Calif.

The agreement is the third national settlement between the EPA and an industrial bakery company.

In 2003, Earthgrains Baking Companies Inc., Metz Baking Company, Earthgrains Refrigerated Dough Products, L.P., and Coopersmith, Inc. agreed to settle a similar suit by paying a $5.25m civil penalty for having committed the largest ever corporate-wide violations of stratospheric ozone protection regulations.

In addition, the companies agreed to convert all of their industrial process refrigeration appliances to refrigerant systems that do not deplete the ozone layer.

The four related companies formed the second largest bakery company in the US. The companies were bought by Sara Lee during the government's investigation.

The government's complaint alleged that Earthgrains' large industrial process appliances at 57 of its 67 facilities leaked refrigerants in excess of the 35 per cent annualized leak rate permitted under the regulation. About 300 large refrigerant-containing appliances, several containing 1000 pounds or more of refrigerant each, were involved in the investigation.

In the fall of 2000, Meyer's Bakeries, Inc. settled its corporate-wide violations by paying a civil penalty of $3.5 million and converting all its appliances to non-ozone-depleting refrigerants.

In the summer of 2001, Air Liquide, a producer of industrial gases, settled its corporate-wide violations of these leak detection and repair requirements by paying a $4.5 million penalty and spending $500,000 on environmentally beneficial projects, in addition to converting its refrigerant systems to non-ozone-depleting systems.

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