Derichebourg Recycling USA Sued Over Clean Air Act Violations

On Friday, the United States filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of Texas against Derichebourg Recycling USA for violating the Clean Air Act. 

According to the complaint, Derichebourg Recycling USA is a Texas corporation that owns and operates recycling facilities in Houston, Texas. Specifically, the complaint states the defendant is a “final processor” under the Clean Air Act of small appliances and motor vehicle air conditioners in the scrap metal recycling process.

The complaint purports that the defendant accepts motor vehicle air conditioners and a variety of small appliances, including refrigerators, freezers, window air conditioners, dehumidifiers, chillers, coolers and vending machines, which each contain refrigerants for recycling at three of its facilities in Houston. Further, once the items are accepted by the facility, the appliances and motor vehicle air conditioners are processed in a shredder that allows scraps to be sorted mechanically into grades and types of metal.

Under the Clean Air Act, a “final processor” must ensure the reduction of refrigerant emissions to the lowest achievable level during the disposal of appliances and motor vehicle air conditioners. The complaint states, in order to achieve this goal, a “final processor” must either recover any remaining refrigerant from an appliance, or verify using a signed statement or a contract, that all refrigerant that had not previously leaked out of the appliance has been recovered from the appliance. 

According to the government, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) inspected three of the defendant’s Houston facilities in November 2018 and during their inspection found intact refrigerant lines on several appliances and motor vehicle air conditioners, which showed no sign of recovery or venting and thus likely still contained refrigerants. Further, the complaint states during the inspections the EPA found that the defendant was not verifying, through a signed statement or contract, that all refrigerant that had not previously leaked had been recovered from the appliances or motor vehicle air conditioners. 

Due to the EPA’s findings during these inspections, the United States filed the present lawsuit against Derichebourg Recycling USA on behalf of the EPA for failure to recover refrigerant or verify recovery in violation of the Clean Air Act at the defendant’s three facilities. For these violations, the United States seeks to enjoin the defendant from operating the facilities in violation of the Clean Air Act, an order instructing the defendant to correct its handling of refrigerants and to take other appropriate actions to remedy the harm to public health and the environment, civil penalties of up to $102,638 per day for each violation and an award of costs.