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Leaking Havoc

Leaking Havoc: Exposing Your Supermarket’s Invisible Climate Pollution

Washington D.C. — Today, the Environmental Investigation Agency released a report exposing Walmart and other major U.S. supermarkets leaking potent greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Leaking Havoc: Exposing Your Supermarket’s Invisible Climate Pollution is the result of a months-long investigation of dozens of supermarkets in the greater Washington, D.C. area, including Maryland and Virginia, that conclusively detected climate pollution in refrigerated aisles. The investigation, using industry-accepted leak detector technology, found over half of all stores investigated to be leaking super-pollutant refrigerants. Using an infrared camera, EIA captured striking video showing HFCs leaking out onto products in an open refrigerated display case in a store.

“Despite empty promises, Walmart continues to use and leak potent super-pollutant chemicals. It is appalling that supermarkets are failing to confront and control these easily preventable emissions, given our climate crisis,” said Avipsa Mahapatra, EIA’s Climate Campaign Lead. “Our investigation makes it obvious that this glaring inaction is a crime against our climate, and should really be illegal.”

EIA’s investigation, which focused on Walmart and other top-grossing supermarkets, shows that 60% of Walmart stores visited had an HFC refrigerant leak. Across all other stores investigated, more than half were measurably leaking these super pollutants. A few stores had high concentrations of HFCs still present months later. The leakage of climate-damaging, ozone-depleting refrigerants can be avoided through proactive refrigerant management. In spite of the current lack of regulations on HFCs, the recently passed American Innovation and Manufacturing Act (AIM) Act authorizes EPA to regulate production, use, and emissions of HFCs.

“It’s alarming that today’s regulatory landscape still allows supermarkets to legally use and leak HFCs in massive quantities,” said Christina Starr, Senior Policy Analyst at EIA. “With recent passage of the AIM Act, it’s high time for the EPA to design more effective regulations to accelerate replacement of HFCs with climate-friendly refrigerants and to require companies to monitor and mitigate leaks.”

Contact: Avipsa Mahapatra, Campaign Climate Lead, EIA, amahapatra@eia-global.org

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Leaking Havoc: Exposing Your Supermarket’s Invisible Climate Pollution
02/15/2021
An EIA investigation into dozens of supermarkets in the greater Washington, D.C. area, including Virginia and Maryland, found a majority of stores to be leaking super-pollutant hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants
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Widespread adoption of HFC-free technologies is cost-effective, energy efficient, and climate-friendly. Read EIA’s report Putting the Freeze on HFCs for hundreds of examples of HFC-free technologies available and in use today.
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The October 2016 Montreal Protocol meeting in Kigali, Rwanda yielded a global agreement to phase down HFCs. Now countries must ratify and implement the Kigali Amendment! Read and share EIA's briefing on this great opportunity and obligation to avert climate catastrophe.
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