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SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced an $11 million settlement against AutoZone, Inc. (AutoZone) to resolve allegations that the company violated state laws governing hazardous waste, hazardous materials, and confidential consumer information. AutoZone is charged with illegally disposing of millions of hazardous waste items, including used motor oil and automotive fluids, at landfills not authorized to accept hazardous waste.
“AutoZone violated California law by improperly disposing of millions of toxic and hazardous waste items. It endangered our environment and public health,” said Attorney General Becerra. “AutoZone must now pay the price for breaking the law. The California Department of Justice is committed to investigating and holding accountable violators of our laws meant to protect California’s environment and communities.”
AutoZone is a retailer and distributor of automotive replacement parts, accessories, and engine additives in North America. It owns or operates approximately 600 retail stores and a distribution center. From August 2013 through September 2015, District Attorneys’ offices throughout California conducted 56 inspections of dumpster bins at 49 separate AutoZone facilities. These investigations found numerous instances of unlawful disposal of hazardous waste including batteries, aerosol cans, electronic devices, and hundreds of discarded bottles and other receptacles containing automotive fluids and other regulated hazardous waste. 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 found by the prosecuting offices to have committed these environmental violations. It is estimated that AutoZone illegally disposed of over five million hazardous waste items in California.
AutoZone also violated laws protecting vulnerable confidential consumer information by unlawfully disposing of customer records without having rendered personal information unreadable.
The settlement requires a monetary payment 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 gets a credit of $1 million against the penalties if it undertakes 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 is properly disposed of at all facilities. The results of the audit must be shared with the public. The company must also comply with 23 injunctive requirements to comply with environmental protection and confidential consumer information protection laws.
Joining Attorney General Becerra in this lawsuit are the District Attorneys of Alameda, Monterey, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Joaquin, Solano, Ventura and Yolo Counties, and the Los Angeles City Attorney.
Attorney General Becerra is committed to holding accountable companies who violate environmental laws. Since taking office in July 2017, he has announced: a $7.4 million statewide settlement with Target for environmental violations; a $27.84 million settlement with Home Depot for violations of California’s hazardous waste laws and customer privacy requirements; and a $4.4 million settlement with Cox Communications for unlawfully disposing of hazardous waste.
A copy of the final judgment can be found here.