Home Depot To Pay Washington State $1.6 M

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Ecology issued a $1.6 million penalty to The Home Depot for selling prohibited hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) products, after roughly two years of attempts to bring the company into compliance, according to officials.

According to the Washington Department of Ecology, HFCs are considered powerful greenhouse gases used mainly for refrigeration and air conditioning, and they can leak into the atmosphere if equipment is faulty or damaged. When that happens, HFCs have hundreds to thousands of times the global warming impact of carbon dioxide.

The Washington Legislature passed laws in 2019 and 2021 gradually phasing out the use of HFCs. One of the restrictions banned the sale of R-134a canisters at retail stores beginning in July 2021. R-134a is an HFC refrigerant used in automotive air conditioning systems.

Vehicle manufacturers have largely switched to refrigerants with lower climate impacts, so the use of R-134a is already in decline. Washington’s law doesn’t require drivers to change the refrigerant already in their vehicle. However, it limits the retail sale of R-134a so repair and maintenance of these systems happens at shops that can collect and recycle the old refrigerant, preventing it from escaping into the atmosphere.

“Restricting HFC products and equipment is key to achieving the state’s statutory greenhouse gas emission limits and ultimately getting to net zero by 2050,” said Joel Creswell, who manages Ecology’s Climate Pollution Reduction Program. “HFCs safely sealed inside air-conditioning systems can be recovered, recycled and re-used, but when they leak out, they become a major contributor to climate change.”

After Washington’s HFC regulations took effect, Ecology began notifying and educating businesses about how to comply in November 2021. In response, most businesses voluntarily updated their websites and sales practices. The Home Depot continued to both offer and sell R-134a canisters to Washington customers on its website. State officials say numerous attempts were made between 2021 and 2023 to help the company into compliance.

According to the Department of Ecology, technical assistance meetings were held with The Home Depot’s website software and compliance teams in 2022. At that time, officials were assured that the identified products would not be available for purchase in Washington and that no new prohibited products would be added to the company’s website.

After officials again discovered R-134a products being offered for sale on The Home Depot’s website during a routine compliance check in July 2023, the state requested information from the company about potential sales. The Home Depot informed Ecology that they sold 1,058 units of the prohibited products in Washington between April 12, 2022, and Sept. 5, 2023.

Under Washington law, the company could have faced penalties of up to $10,000 per violation. Based on the company’s prompt disclosure of units sold, the state reduced the amount to $1,500 per violation, or $1.6 million in total. The company has 30 days to appeal the penalty to Washington’s Pollution Control Hearings Board.

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