With little publicity or fanfare, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) quietly executed a $2.75 million dollar settlement with Lowe's HIW, Inc. over violations associated with District rules that prohibit the sale of non-compliant paints and coatings in November. Under the settlement, Lowe's will pay $2.45 million in civil penalties and $300,000 to cover the costs of agency investigation.

SCAQMD is the air pollution control agency for Orange County and major portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Riverside Counties. Paints and coatings are one of the largest sources of air pollution in the SCAQMD, accounting for more VOC emissions than all power plants and oil refineries combined. Thus, SCAQMD takes the position that ensuring compliance with paint and coatings regulations is a critical path on the road to clean air.

The Lowe's settlement together with a $2 million Wal-Mart settlement alleging similar violations and executed earlier this year, are a testimony to SCAQMD's efforts on the issue and signal where the agency's enforcement muscle is currently being flexed. National manufacturers and retailers of paints and coatings, beware.

For more information, see the SCAQMD press release on the settlement, available at: http://www.aqmd.gov/news1/2010/Lowessettlement.htm