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Wal-Mart Settles Clean Air Violations with Campaign to Reduce Diesel Pollution

Release Date: 11/01/2005
Contact Information:

Contact: David Deegan (deegan.dave@epa.gov), EPA Office of Public Affairs, (617) 918-1017

For Immediate Release: November 1, 2005; Release # dd051101

(Boston) – As part of a settlement for clean air violations, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will undertake a national effort to reduce diesel truck idling at its 4,000 facilities across the U.S. The anti-idling project results from a clean air enforcement action in Massachusetts and Connecticut brought by EPA’s New England regional office.

The groundbreaking EPA settlement will result in Wal-Mart taking action across the country to address truck idling, by training Wal-Mart drivers, posting signs at all Wal-Mart facilities, and notifying other delivery companies of Wal-Mart’s policy to prohibit idling. Under the consent agreement, Wal-Mart will also pay a $50,000 penalty.

EPA’s complaint that trucks were illegally idling at Wal-Mart stores in Massachusetts and Connecticut is the country’s first multi-state case that addresses idling violations.

“Diesel pollution is a serious problem across the country, especially for those suffering from asthma or other health problems” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “We are pleased that Wal-Mart is implementing these aggressive measures to limit idling and help make Wal-Mart stores across the nation healthier places for employees, customers, and the surrounding communities.”

Running a vehicle’s engine while it is stopped (known as idling) wastes fuel and creates air pollution. Exhaust from diesel engines includes small particles, known as fine particulate matter, and smog-forming pollutants. Fine particles pose a serious health risk because they can easily pass through the nose and throat and lodge themselves deep in the lungs. When inhaled repeatedly, the pollutants in diesel exhaust may aggravate asthma and allergies or cause other serious health problems including lung cancer.

A typical idling truck burns nearly a gallon of fuel per hour. A fleet of 7,000 trucks, about the size of Wal-Mart’s fleet, idling for one hour a day would burn 2.1 million gallons of diesel fuel each year, and create 415 tons of smog-forming pollutants, 10 tons of harmful particulate matter, and 23,000 tons of carbon dioxide, which contributes to global climate change.

In fall 2004, EPA inspectors observed trucks owned by Wal-Mart and by other trucking companies idling for long periods of time at six different Wal-Mart properties in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Inspectors observed delivery vehicles idling during the day as well as sleeper cabs idling at night.

Both Connecticut and Massachusetts have anti-idling rules that are included in the “state implementation plans” that states submit to EPA outlining how they will meet national air quality standards. Regulations in the state implementation plan are enforceable by the state and by EPA. The Massachusetts rule prohibits vehicle idling over five minutes (with exceptions for periods of traffic, repairs, or operation of loading or refrigeration equipment). The Connecticut rule prohibits vehicle idling for over three minutes when temperatures are above 20 degrees Fahrenheit, with exceptions for traffic conditions, repairs, etc.

Under the terms of the settlement, Wal-Mart will comply with all federally-enforceable idling rules. In addition, through a supplemental environmental project, Wal-Mart has agreed to include all facilities in all states in its idle reduction program regardless of whether the state has an anti-idling regulation. Specifically, Wal-Mart will post “no idling” signs at all Wal-Mart facilities in all states, and notify other delivery companies that idling is not permitted on Wal-Mart property and may violate state or local idling restrictions. Finally, Wal-Mart will pay a $50,000 penalty.

A number of states and localities have anti-idling restrictions in place. The states with anti-idling restrictions include all or part of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah and Virginia. Several states (including Massachusetts, Connecticut, Virginia, New Jersey, Hawaii and portions of Texas), have included these idling restrictions in their state implementation plan, making those rules federally-enforceable. Municipal governments that have developed anti-idling requirements to attain cleaner air include Maricopa County, AZ; Denver, CO; District of Columbia; Atlanta, GA; Owatonna and St. Cloud, MN; St. Louis, MO; Clark County and Washoe County, NV; New York City, NY; Allegheny County and Philadelphia, PA; Brazoria County, Chambers County, Fort Bend County, Galveston County, Harris County, Liberty County, Montgomery County and Waller County, TX; Salt Lake County, UT.

This EPA action follows several previous enforcement efforts to reduce illegal idling, including a major settlement with the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority in March 2004, settlements with several bus companies in 2002 regarding illegal idling at Logan Airport in Boston, and a January 2005 settlement with a North Andover, Massachusetts company.

Several idle control technologies can aid fleets in limiting idling time and complying with state regulations. Automatic shut-down devices can switch off parked trucks after predetermined time intervals. Auxiliary Power Units (APUs) – which typically only consume between 0.05 and 0.2 gallons of fuel per hour – can provide heat, air conditioning, and power without running the main engine. Trucks can be fitted with devices that allow them to plug into electrical outlets to provide power and climate control for the cab when parked. These idle control devices typically have a pay-back time of one to two years in fuel costs alone and can significantly reduce wear and tear on engines.

For more information about the health effects associated with exposure to diesel exhaust and strategies to reduce diesel pollution, visit: http://www.epa.gov/ne/eco/diesel/

Related Information:
Asthma
Diesel Exhaust
Clean School Bus USA
Air Enforcement