On March 8, 2018, California regulators reached a settlement agreement with Home Depot wherein the retail giant agreed to pay $27.84 million for various hazardous waste violations. The State hit Home Depot with penalties for alleged violations identified during inspections occurring between 2013 and 2015, due to improper disposal of certain types of waste, including batteries, aerosol cans, paints, and electronic devices. Attorney General Xavier Becerra reported that the settlement amount equated to about $16 million in civil penalties, $9 million toward environmental protection and compliance, and nearly $2 million to cover costs. The State alleged that Home Depot violated California’s Hazardous Waste Control Law, and California’s Unfair Competition Law because “such conduct gives Home Depot a competitive advantage over other regulated entities that are complying with the law.”
This enforcement action follows other recent hazardous waste enforcement actions against major retailers in California. For example, in April 2017, a Kern County Superior Court Judge ordered Dollar General to pay $1.125 million as part of settlement of a civil/environmental prosecution. Dollar General paid $500,000 in civil penalties, $375,000 to reimburse the costs of the investigation, $112,000 to fund supplemental environmental projects, and $138,000 to fund hazardous waste minimization and enhanced compliance projects. Similarly, later in April 2017, a San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge ordered Big Lots Stores, Inc. to pay $3.5 million in civil penalties and for costs of environmental violations as a result of an investigation into the disposal of hazardous waste by Big Lots at its distribution center and its 206 California stores over the past several years.
As we have previously posted on this blog, we urge our retail readers, and anyone generating hazardous waste streams, to know what these streams are, how they are being managed, how they are being stored and transported, and their final disposition to ensure that all regulatory requirements are being met. Small mistakes can easily become habits, and those habits often become intentional, leading to major liabilities for the waste generator.
The final judgment in the Home Depot settlement is available here. Stoel Rives will be monitoring similar enforcement matters to keep the industry apprised.