Air Quality Management District and Lowe's reach $2.75 million settlement

10/29/2010, 12:18 p.m.

LOS ANGELES, Calif.--The company that owns Lowe's home improvement stores will pay $2.75 million for selling smog-forming ingredients in paints and coatings, the state's air quality agency announced today.

Under the settlement, Lowe's HIW Inc. will pay the Air Quality Management District about $2.45 million in civil penalties and $300,000 to cover the cost of the agency's investigation, according to the AQMD.

Lowe's has not admitted any culpability in the settlement.

"Paints and coatings are one of the most significant sources of air pollution in our region," said Barry Wallerstein, AQMD's executive officer.

"Compliance with our paint and coatings regulations is an essential part of our path to clean air.''

A Lowe's official said the retailer is pleased to have settled the issue.

"Lowe's takes environmental matters very seriously,'' said Jeff Starnes, Lowe's regional vice-president.

"We are pleased to have resolved this dispute without litigation and look forward to continuing a strong relationship with the AQMD,'' he said. "We will continue to look for opportunities to make our programs even stronger in the future.''

In recent years AQMD has focused inspections on home improvement retail stores to ensure that paints sold to consumers comply with air quality regulations.

According to the AQMD's clean-air plan, paints and coatings are responsible for 23 tons per day of volatile organic compound emissions in the Southland, an amount greater than that emitted by all of the power plants and oil refineries in the region.

VOCs combine in the atmosphere with nitrogen oxides, a combustion pollutant, to form ozone, a lung-scarring gas.

AQMD rules prohibit the manufacture, distribution, sale or use of non-compliant coatings in the South Coast Air Basin.

The agency regulates air pollution in Orange County and major portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Riverside Counties.