Wal-Mart likes to put out eco-friendly press releases, but here’s one you won’t find on their website. The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reached a national settlement with the giant retailer over clean air violations caused by diesel trucks idling at their stores in Massachusetts and Connecticut. The action against Wal-Mart was initiated by the New England regional office of the EPA. As part of the agreement, Wal-Mart has to undertake a national effort to cut its diesel truck idling at 4,000 stores, and the company agreed to pay a $50,000 fine. The EPA found that trucks were illegally idling at Wal-Mart stores in Massachusetts and Connecticut — both states which have anti-idling laws. EPA inspectors observed trucks owned by Wal-Mart 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. “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.” Wal-Mart agreed to train its own drivers, post signs at all Wal-Mart facilities, and notify other delivery companies of Wal-Mart’s policy to prohibit idling. Running a vehicle’s engine while it is stopped 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. According to the EPA, a typical Wal-Mart truck idling 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. 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.
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. If you have a Wal-Mart near you — and who doesn’t — check to see if Wal-Mart had “no idling” signs up on its property, but more importantly, if you see trucks idling their engines for any extended periods of time, report them to your regional EPA office. Go to www.epa.gov for further details.