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Federal Government Sues City For Releasing CfCs Into Environment

Release Date: 03/24/1999
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(#99041) -- MARY JO WHITE, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and JEANNE M. FOX, Regional Administrator for the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), announced that the Federal Government filed a civil suit today against the City of New York and the New York City Department of Sanitation charging that they have been in continuous violation since 1992 of the Clean Air Act by knowingly releasing ozone-depleting substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) into the environment when disposing of household appliances discarded by New York City residents.

Section 608 of the Clean Air Act was enacted in 1990 to protect the layer of stratospheric ozone that shields the earth from harmful UV-B radiation from the sun that may cause skin cancers, cataracts and other harmful conditions. An increase in the amount of UV-B radiation that reaches the earth is also associated with global warming. Section 608, which regulates emissions of substances such as CFCs, seeks to significantly reduce the release of substances that might deplete the ozone layer.

According to the Government's Complaint, the defendants have been violating Section 608 by collecting discarded appliances from New York City residents in vehicles that compact or crush the appliances. The Complaint charges that the defendants do not remove refrigerants, which contain ozone-depleting substances regulated by Section 608, prior to placing the appliances in their compacting trucks, nor do they verify that refrigerants were previously removed from the appliances.

According to the Complaint, in the process of compacting the appliances, ozone-depleting substances contained in gaseous form in refrigerants are released into the environment. The Complaint also charges that ozone-depleting substances are released into the environment at the City's household appliance collection centers.

The federal government is also charging that the defendants have been in continuous violation since March 25, 1994 of a compliance order issued by EPA that required the City and Department of Sanitation to discontinue their improper disposal practices. With the issuance of the Complaint, the Government seeks to prohibit the defendants from continuing to violate the law, and seeks civil penalties of up to $27,500 per day for the past violations of Section 608, its implementing regulations and the compliance order.

Ms. WHITE stated that: "This lawsuit exemplifies the federal government's commitment to enforce the laws and regulations enacted to protect the crucial stratospheric ozone layer, to ensure compliance with the nation's environmental laws."

Ms. FOX stated that: "It is imperative that the City of New York and the Department of Sanitation properly handle the collection and disposal of appliances containing CFCs and other chemicals identified as major causes of ozone depletion. Given the City's failure to properly address this important issue in the past, the federal government felt it necessary to pursue this legal action, and expects that it will result in increased environmental awareness on the part of City administrators."

Assistant United States Attorney HEIDI A. WENDEL is in charge of the case.

For more information contact:
Mary Mears, Press Office
EPA Region 2
290 Broadway
NY, NY 10007-1866
Voice: 212-637-3669 FAX: 212-637-5046 E-Mail: