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EPA Reduces Penalty for Refrigeration Company That Voluntarily Disclosed CFC Violations

January 21, 1998
Contact: Bonnie Lomax, (215) 566-5542

BLUEFIELD, W.Va. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it has agreed to dramatically reduce the penalty assessed against a West Virginia company that voluntarily reported its Clean Air Act violations to the agency.

In a June 1997 telephone call to EPA's regional office in Philadelphia, the owner of Pete's Refrigeration reported using unapproved refrigerant during repairs to motor vehicle air conditioning systems at its Bluefield, Mercer County shop. To reduce the threat to the earth's ozone layer caused by the release of chloroflurocarbons (CFCs) -- which were once commonly used as refrigerants in air conditioning systems - the 1990 Clean Air Act requires auto technicians to use only EPA-approved refrigerants in cars and trucks.

If this violation were not disclosed voluntarily, Pete's Refrigeration would have been liable for a $17,000 penalty. However, under EPA's policy to encourage voluntary self-disclosure of violations, the January 20 settlement agreement reduced the penalty by 75% to $4,250.

"We encourage other companies to follow this example of promptly disclosing the environmental problems to EPA and correcting them," said EPA Regional Administrator W. Michael McCabe.

The EPA audit policy was developed as an incentive for companies to implement self-audits to ensure compliance with all environmental laws. It substantially reduces, and in some cases eliminates, penalties for violations discovered and corrected by a company. The policy does not cover criminal violations or violations that resulted in actual significant harm to public health or the environment.

Nationally, EPA mitigated penalties against 78 companies that self-disclosed violations at 423 facilities under the audit policy.

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