Southeastern Grocers was found to be in violation of the Clean Air Act, Section 608, by failing to properly manage the tracking and mitigation of refrigerant leaks.

This past August, the EPA acted against another grocery organization. This investigation came out of a request for information back in 2015 and will cost Southeastern Grocers $300,000 in civil penalties and $4.2 million over the next three years according to "Southeastern Grocers, BI-LO, Winn-Dixie to Pay EPA Fine, Reduce Leaks".

There is still considerable doubt from owners and operators that the federal government will support their new rules, which were enacted in 2016. Many thought that with the change in the presidential administration, these rules would be rolled back or repealed entirely. However, this latest action demonstrates that the EPA is staying true to taking action against owners per the pre-2016 rules against ODS (Ozone Depleting Substance) refrigerants.

Current Regulations and Dates

As of right now, the 2016 rules are in place and fully enforceable with no signs that they will be repealed before 2020. This widens the reach of the EPA to review the refrigerant tracking of HFC refrigerants beyond just ODS types.

Beginning in 2020, refrigerant owners and operators must self-report on systems that have reached a leak rate of 125% in 2019. By removing the burden of having to send out a request for an owner’s refrigerant management information, the EPA will be able to see what is happening in the market as a whole and present them with potential next targets for action.

To ensure your company is ready, you should have a system in place that dynamically allows you to track refrigerant, leak rates, chronically leaking equipment and contractor certifications. Otherwise, you may be leaving yourself open to fines, significant multi-year capital commitments and further audits for further fines.

Today, if you are managing your refrigerant through a homegrown system or allowing a third party to manage your refrigerant for you, you could be in danger of regulation violations and not see it coming. Your business is fully liable for your refrigerant gas, your contractors, and your leak rates, regardless of how or who you have managing your systems.

Going into 2020, if your business is behind in implementing a proven solution that can handle the complex aspects of refrigerant management, you need to make it priority #1.

Critical Next Steps to ensure your business is on the right track toward avoiding these fines, you need to:

  1. Ensure that you have all maintenance data available on refrigerant holding equipment.
  2. Ensure that you have all documentation on the contractors and technician certifications for handling ozone-depleting substances.
  3. Understand the current leak rates in effect and the required reporting coming in March of 2020.
  4. Run practice reports ensuring your business is compatible with current processes to pull a report with all data points needed.
  5. Fix any existing maintenance or process issues in advance to ensure you are not already liable for fines.

Use a Proven Solution

In retail, square footage spend-to-profit amounts to pennies on the dollar. The financial impact of a fine the size of the one given to Southeastern Grocers can have devastating effects on your company’s bottom line.

Accruent’s vx Sustain solution continues to be a market leader in the refrigerant management space and is fully capable of meeting the needs of the ODS rules as well as the new 2016 amended standards. And at $37,500, the cost for a single violation, per system, per day, our application pays for itself, with many of our clients achieving full ROI in less than one year with proper use and disciplined data management.

If you are struggling with refrigerant management or concerned that you may be at risk, then you need a solution that will keep you compliant. Learn more about how vx Sustain can help you better manage your refrigerant estate, contact our product experts today.