Beveridge & Diamond
 
Related Practices
Related Practices

Lowe’s Settles California Emissions Violations for $2.75 Million

Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., November 17, 2010

According to an October 29, 2010 settlement agreement with California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District (“AQMD”), retailer Lowe’s HIW, Inc. (“Lowe’s”) will pay $2.75 million ($2.45 million in civil penalties and $300,000 in investigation costs) to resolve alleged violations of the AQMD’s rule limiting the volatile organic compound (“VOC”) content of paints and coatings.  The AQMD is the air pollution control agency for the Los Angeles metropolitan area, including Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, where Lowe’s operates 45 stores.    

The rule at issue, AQMD Rule 1113, prohibits the manufacture, distribution, sale, or use in the AQMD of architectural coatings containing excessive VOCs.  AQMD defines “architectural coatings” broadly to include a wide variety of paints and coatings applied to structures, pavements, and curbs.  Limits vary by type of coating, and many are lower than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s national standards for the same products (40 C.F.R. Part 59 Subpart D).  A chart summarizing the AQMD limits can be found here, and is also reproduced in the rule itself, available here.

While Rule 1113 applies to manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and even consumers, the AQMD has made violations at home improvement retail stores in southern California an enforcement priority.  Prior to the Lowe’s settlement, AQMD entered into a similar settlement with retailer Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (“Wal-Mart”) earlier this year in which Wal-Mart agreed to pay $1.95 million ($850,000 in civil penalties, $150,000 in investigation costs, and $950,000 to a special air quality fund) for violations of Rule 1113 stemming from the sale of high-VOC coatings in the AQMD.

In addition to its stepped-up enforcement efforts on paints and coatings, AQMD is also currently in the process of amending Rule 1113.  The amendment is tentatively scheduled for 2011, and appears likely to expand the scope of the rule by adding new categories of coatings and more stringent VOC limits for some of the existing categories.

Architectural coatings are just one category of products that are subject to strict VOC limitations in California as well as at the national level.  But while EPA has established national regulations controlling the VOC content of certain consumer and industrial products, additional and more stringent regulations, like AQMD Rule 1113, apply to products in California.  For more information on the Lowe’s settlement or on California’s regulation of VOCs in consumer and industrial products, please contact Amy M. Lincoln at (415) 262-4029, alincoln@bdlaw.com or Daniel M. Brian at (415) 262-4016, dbrian@bdlaw.com.