Business & Real Estate

AutoZone to pay $11 million to settle allegations of violating California environmental laws

The Yolo County District Attorney’s Office and other offices across California announced an $11 million settlement against AutoZone, Inc. Wednesday in connection with allegations of violating environmental regulations and mishandling customer information.

AutoZone, an automotive parts retailer with locations throughout the state and in the greater Sacramento area, was alleged to have illegally disposed of hazardous waste, including motor oil and automotive fluids, at landfills that were not authorized to accept it, according to a news release issued by the Yolo County district attorney.

Between August 2013 and September 2015, California environmental regulators and district attorney representatives conducted 56 inspections of dumpsters at 49 AutoZone locations and found hundreds of violations, according to the release.

Investigators discovered that AutoZone had been unlawfully disposing of waste oil, filters, batteries, aerosol cans, electronics and other regulated hazardous materials, according to the release.

Allegations of regulatory infractions date back to 2009, and investigators alleged that violations occurred in 45 of California’s 58 counties, according to the release.

Additionally, AutoZone was alleged to have disposed of customer records without sufficiently rendering them unreadable, according to the release.

AutoZone has since modified its operations to avoid waste management violations in the future, according to the release.

The Memphis-based company will pay $8.9 million in civil penalties, $1.35 million toward environmental projects and $750,000 to reimburse government expenses. It also must be audited for regulatory compliance, according to the release.

“When companies take shortcuts that jeopardize the livability of our communities, it’s up to California to hold them accountable and protect our environment for future generations,” San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said in a prepared statement. “This is especially true in an era where the federal government is actively rolling the clock back on the most basic environmental protections.”

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Vincent Moleski covers business and breaking news for The Bee and is a graduate student in literature at Sacramento State. He was born and raised in Sacramento and previously wrote for the university’s student newspaper, the State Hornet.