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New York supermarket chain Gristedes to spend millions to settle US greenhouse gas lawsuits

New York supermarket chain Gristedes to spend millions to settle US greenhouse gas lawsuits

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York supermarket chain Gristedes will pay a $400,000 fine and spend $13.5 million on repairs and upgrades to settle charges that its stores’ refrigerators emitted far more greenhouse gases than competitors’ refrigerators, the U.S. Justice Department said on Monday.

Gristedes was accused of leaking 42,094 pounds of refrigerant from its stores between 2019 and 2021, equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions associated with driving a gasoline-powered car 140 million miles, or 5,622 times around the Earth’s equator.

The Justice Department also said Gristedes “completely ignored” a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule passed under the Clean Air Act that requires supermarkets to monitor, repair and document commercial refrigerant leaks.

Gristedes must reduce emissions by at least 73% from 2020 levels under a consent decree. If it fails to do so, the company faces significant additional penalties, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement.

The decision requires Gristedes to make necessary repairs, install advanced low global warming potential refrigerants in three stores and reduce its leak rate from 59% in 2020 to less than 16% within four years.

A judge must approve the consent decree, which was signed by John Catsimatidis, billionaire owner of Gristedes.

Gristedes had no immediate comment. The chain no longer uses ozone-depleting substances as coolants in its stores, but acknowledged using hydrofluorocarbons, which are also greenhouse gases, according to the consent decree.

According to its website, Gristedes, which has been in business since 1888, has 19 stores, mostly in Manhattan.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)