The Yolo County District Attorney’s Office, along with other prosecutors’ offices, entered into an $11 million settlement with AutoZone Inc. on Tuesday to resolve allegations that the company violated state laws governing hazardous waste, hazardous materials and confidential consumer information.
The people’s civil complaint alleged that AutoZone illegally disposed of hazardous-waste items, including used motor oil and automotive fluids, at landfills not authorized to accept hazardous waste. Alameda Superior Court Judge Seligman signed the judgment.
The other offices joining the settlement were the California Attorney General’s Office as well as the district attorneys of Alameda, Monterey, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Joaquin, Solano and Ventura counties, as well as the Los Angeles city attorney.
“Our ability to stop these environmental violations from occurring within, and outside, the boundaries, of Yolo County has been and will remain one of the primary focuses of my office,” Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig said.
“Our team of environmental regulators and public prosecutors continue to enhance our environment. We appreciate the hard work accomplished by AutoZone to abate their issues, especially as it relates to their handling of wastes abandoned in their parking lots and placed in their trash by customers,” Reisig said.
In California, AutoZone is a retailer and distributor of automotive replacement parts, accessories and engine additives in North America, and owns or operates approximately 600 retail stores and a distribution center. AutoZone currently has facilities in West Sacramento and Woodland.
From August 2013 through September 2015, district attorneys’ offices and environmental regulators from throughout California conducted 56 inspections of dumpster bins at 49 separate AutoZone facilities. These investigations found hundreds of instances of unlawful disposal of hazardous waste including waste oil, waste oil filters, batteries, aerosol cans, electronic devices and other regulated hazardous waste.
Further, these investigative efforts revealed that AutoZone allowed its customers to deposit hazardous automotive fluids and other waste items into regular trash containers in AutoZone stores’ parking lots throughout California. AutoZone facilities in 45 counties in California were affected by these environmental violations.
It was alleged that beginning in 2009, AutoZone failed to comply with laws regulating hazardous waste and hazardous materials. The company also violated laws protecting vulnerable confidential consumer information by unlawfully disposing of customer records without having rendered personal information unreadable.
AutoZone spent countless hours modifying their internal programs in order to halt these systemic problems with their waste management prior to settling this matter.
The settlement requires a monetary settlement of $11 million. This consists of $8.9 million for civil penalties, $1.35 million for supplemental environmental projects, and $750,000 for reimbursement of investigative and enforcement costs. AutoZone will get a credit of $1 million against the penalties if it incurs at least $2 million in environmental enhancement work not required by law.
In addition, the settlement includes provisions requiring AutoZone to undergo a general compliance audit and a trash receptacle audit to ensure hazardous waste and confidential consumer information are being properly disposed of at all facilities. The company must also comply with 23 injunctive requirements to comply with environmental protection and confidential consumer information protection laws.