AutoZone store on Tualatin Valley Highway, in Aloha, Oregon. Photo by Steve Morgan, 2017.
Written by The Business Journal Staff
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced an $11 million settlement against AutoZone, Inc. to resolve allegations that the automotive parts and accessories retailer violated California laws that regulate hazardous waste and materials, and confidential consumer information.
AutoZone is charged with illegally disposing millions of hazardous waste items 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,” Becerra said. “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 owns or operates around 600 retail stores and a distribution center. It has dozens of locations in the Central Valley.
Beginning in August 2013 and gong through September 2015, District Attorneys’ offices throughout the state conducted 56 inspections of dumpster bins at 49 separate AutoZone facilities.
It was discovered that AutoZone had unlawfully disposed hazardous waste including batteries, aerosol cans, electronic devices and hundreds of discarded bottles and other containers used for automotive fluids and other regulated hazardous waste.
The investigations also revealed that the company allowed customers to deposit hazardous automotive fluids and other waste items into regular trash containers in AutoZone stores’ parking lots throughout the state.
Prosecuting offices found that AutoZone facilities in 45 California counties have committed these environmental violations, and it’s estimated that the company illegally disposed of more than five million hazardous waste items in the state.
AutoZone also violated laws protecting vulnerable confidential consumer information by unlawfully disposing of customer records without having rendered personal information unreadable.
The $11 million settlement 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.
Of those civil penalties, $10,000 is payable to Fresno County and $53,500 to Tulare County.
AutoZone will get a credit of $1 million against the penalties if the company undertakes $2 million in environmental enhancement work not required by law. The settlement also requires AutoZone to undergo a general compliance audit and a trash receptacle audit to ensure that hazardous waste and confidential consumer information is properly disposed of at all facilities with the results of the audits being shared with the public.