State Sues AutoZone Over Oil Disposal


Claiming to be the nations leading auto parts retailer, AutoZone sells a lot of motor oil and collects a lot of used oil.

California says the company has a lot to learn about what to do with that used oil.

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The states attorney general filed a $12 million civil lawsuit Friday charging AutoZone, Inc. with a pattern of improperly disposing used oil and improperly storing used filters and other materials. Attorney General Bill Lockyer and three local prosecutors said they took action to show that California wants its hazardous waste regulations to be taken seriously.

We are bringing this enforcement action to show Californias hazardous waste laws arent just words in a code book, said Lockyer. They exist to protect our environment, our water and public health and safety. When the statutes are ignored, those objectives are threatened. Thats what AutoZone has done, and we have gone to court to stop their violations and hold them accountable.

AutoZone, which is based in Memphis, Tenn., staunchly denied the allegations and vowed to fight them in court.

Joining Lockyer in bringing the lawsuit were district attorneys Michael A. Ramos of San Bernardino County, Dean Flippo of Monterey County and JamesP. Willett of SanJoaquin County. They said their charges were based on inspections of approximately 50 AutoZone stores in those three jurisdictions, where they found violations of state hazardous waste violations at every site.

In many cases, the attorneys said, inspectors found that store employees had dumped used oil into storm drains and were storing used oil and oil filters in ways that did not comply with regulations.

Based on those findings, the attorneys concluded that AutoZone was probably violating regulations at most of its 410 stores in California. Besides violations of regulations requiring safe storage and disposal of hazardous wastes, the suit charges the company with violating the state Water Code by discharging oil into state waterways, and with creating a public nuisance. In addition to seeking fines of $12 million, it asks the court to require the company to remedy its violations and to prevent recurrence.

Lockyers office said AutoZone was previously informed of its violations and failed to bring an end to them. The company insisted the charges are unjustified.

AutoZone provides a very valuable and a very necessary public service by collecting used oil for recycling at its 400 locations in California, spokesman Ray Pohlman told Lube Report. We feel that the allegations made by the attorney general are a gross misrepresentation of the facts, and we look forward to the opportunity to defend our position in court.

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