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United States v. Costco Wholesale Corporation

United States District Court, N.D. California

November 5, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
COSTCO WHOLESALE CORPORATION, Defendant.

ORDER ENTERING CONSENT DECREE AND VACATING HEARING

WILLIAM ALSUP, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

In this civil environmental action, there is an unopposed motion to enter a consent decree. No comments or objections were received. For the reasons stated herein, the motion is GRANTED. The November 20 hearing is hereby VACATED.

STATEMENT

Plaintiff is the United States. Defendant is Costco Wholesale Corporation, a membership warehouse business. Costco allegedly owned and operated commercial refrigeration appliances that used a refrigerant listed as a "class I" or "class II" substance under Section 602 of the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. 7671a. Class I and class II substances were known or suspected to cause or significantly contribute to harmful effects on the stratospheric ozone layer.

In November 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") requested information from Costco regarding repairs of leaks from commercial refrigeration appliances using a class I or class II refrigerant.

In January 2013 and June 2014, Costco retrofitted appliances at 32 warehouses (Dkt. No. 13-1 at 1, 5).

In September 2014, this civil action was commenced, seeking civil penalties and injunctive relief regarding commercial refrigerant repair and record-keeping. The United States simultaneously lodged a proposed consent decree. Notice of that proposal was published in the Federal Register. No comments were received (Riedel Decl. ¶ 7).

In October 2014, an unopposed motion to enter the consent decree was filed (Dkt. No. 13-1). All objections and motions were due by October 30. No objections or motions were filed. Accordingly, this order rules as follows.

ANALYSIS

A district court reviews a proposed consent decree to determine whether it is fundamentally fair, adequate, and reasonable. United States v. State of Oregon, 913 F.2d 576, 580 (9th Cir. 1990).

1. PROCEDURAL FAIRNESS.

The proposed consent decree is the product of "over five years" of "arm's-length" negotiation by experienced counsel (Riedel Decl. ¶ 3). The EPA collected from Costco information regarding warehouses in California, Arizona, Nevada, and Hawaii, including 25, 000 pages of equipment records. When negotiating, counsel considered the EPA's analysis, Costco's compliance efforts, and the risks of litigation (Riedel Decl. ¶¶ 3, 6; Compl. ¶¶ 24-26). After a proposal was reached, notice was provided in the Federal Register for thirty days. No comments were received (Ridel Decl. ¶ 7). No objections to or motions regarding the instant motion to enter the proposed ...


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