Two Seafood Processors Settle Clean Air Violations for Improper Handling of Refrigerants
American Seafoods Company LLC and Pacific Longline Company LLC have agreed to phase out the use of ozone depleting refrigerants, implement a comprehensive leak detection and repair program aboard a number of their vessels and pay a penalty to resolve federal Clean Air Act violations.
The settlement, outlined in a consent decree lodged by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, concerns the improper release and illegal import of ozone depleting refrigerants. The consent decree was lodged at the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle.
“The global effort to protect the ozone layer requires that companies using refrigerants manage them carefully and follow laws designed to minimize releases,” said Ed Kowalski, Director of Compliance and Enforcement at EPA’s Seattle office. “EPA is pleased that these companies have agreed to now use refrigerants on their vessels that don’t deplete the ozone.”
Stratospheric ozone depletion can cause increased ultraviolet radiation to reach the Earth and has been linked to skin cancer, cataracts and impaired immune systems. It can also damage crops and reduce crop yields. Some scientists suggest that marine phytoplankton, the base of the ocean food chain, may be under stress from ultraviolet radiation.
American Seafoods Company is one of the country’s largest seafood harvesters and at-sea processors of pollock, hake, cod, scallops and yellowfin sole. The company sells its products in the United States, Asia and Europe. American Seafoods Company and Pacific Longline Company are based in Seattle.
Between 2006 and 2009, American Seafoods Company and Pacific Longline Company used R-22 as a refrigerant in industrial refrigeration units aboard seafood catcher-processor vessels. American Seafoods illegally imported 70,000 kg of R-22 refrigerant to the United States without holding valid allowances. The United States limits the amount of R-22 that companies are permitted to import through the use of set allowances.
The consent decree also resolves violations relating to their use of ozone-depleting substances such as:
- Failure to repair refrigerant leaks in a timely manner
- Failure to verify adequacy of repairs to refrigeration system
- Inadequate records of repair service on refrigerant system
- Use of uncertified employees to perform refrigerant-related work.
- R-22 is among a set of refrigerants being phased out of use due its to high ozone depletion potential under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
In addition to a $700,000 penalty, the companies will spend an estimated $9 million to $15 million to convert refrigeration systems on several vessels to operate using non-ozone depleting refrigerants. The companies have also purchased and retired R-22 allowances to offset the harm caused by their illegal importation. American Seafoods Company and Pacific Longline Company are subsidiaries of American Seafoods Group.