For release on February 26, 2018
Bud Porter, Deputy District Attorney
Environmental Protection Unit
AUTONATION DEALERSHIPS SETTLE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION LAWSUIT BROUGHT BY CALIFORNIA DISTRICT ATTORNEYS
A judge in San Jose has ordered more than $2 million in civil penalties to be paid by the operators of 57 dealerships and collision centers in California belonging to AutoNation, the country’s largest retailer of new automobiles.
The fines are part of a $3.38 million settlement of a lawsuit filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court by Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen and seven other California District Attorneys. The defendants, who operate as subsidiaries of AutoNation, were accused by the prosecutors of illegally disposing of hazardous waste and of violating laws related to the storage of hazardous materials and the disposal of customer records.
“When a car goes in for service, what comes out of the car is usually not good for the environment,” Deputy District Attorney Bud Porter said. “Auto mechanics and body shops need to be on their best behavior when it comes to handling hazardous waste.”
In addition to paying $2.1 million in penalties, the defendants agreed to pay $380,000 in costs and to spend $900,000 on projects designed to enhance their compliance with hazardous waste laws. As a term of the settlement, the AutoNation dealerships in California now have a full-time environmental director who will monitor their environmental compliance and training.
The stipulated judgment resolves a case that began in 2013, when inspectors from the Santa Clara County Department of Environmental Health spotted hazardous waste violations inside the service departments of several AutoNation dealerships. District Attorney investigators in Santa Clara and Alameda Counties then conducted a string of undercover inspections of the dealerships’ trash containers, which revealed the illegal disposal of hazardous automotive fluids, non-empty aerosols such as brake parts cleaner, used oil filters, electronic waste, and, at one dealership, used motor oil.
Invoices and other documents containing personal customer information were also found in the trash. State law requires businesses to take reasonable steps when disposing of customer records by shredding, redacting, or erasing the personal information.
The case was brought by the District Attorney’s Offices of Santa Clara, Alameda, Los Angeles, Placer, Orange, Sacramento, San Diego, and Ventura counties, where the dealerships and collision centers are located. AutoNation cooperated with the District Attorneys’ investigation and took steps to improve its compliance with the environmental and consumer protection laws brought to its attention by the prosecutors.