EPA to severely limit HFCs in refrigerators and air conditioners over 15 years

In what officials call a key step in the fight against climate change, the Environmental Protection Agency severely limits the national production and use of hydrofluorocarbons, very powerful greenhouse gases commonly used in refrigerators and air conditioners.

The new rule, which follows a law passed by Congress last year, aims to reduce the production and use of HFCs in the United States by 85% over the next 15 years, as part of a global elimination designed to slow global warming.

HFCs are greenhouse gases thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide. They often leak through pipes or devices that use compressed refrigerants and are considered a major contributor to global warming. President Joe Biden has pledged to adopt a 2016 global deal to dramatically reduce HFCs by 2036.

White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy, a former EPA administrator, said the new rule was “a victory over the climate and a victory over jobs and American competitiveness.”

The rule is expected to reduce harmful emissions by the equivalent of 4.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2050, said McCarthy, a total similar to three years of emissions from the U.S. electricity sector.

EPA administrator Michael Regan said the phase-down is supported by a coalition of industry groups who see it as an opportunity to “supercharge” US leadership in domestic manufacturing and production of alternative refrigerants. The industry has long turned to the use of alternative refrigerants and pushed for a federal standard to avoid a patchwork of state laws and regulations.

“This action reaffirms what President Biden always says – that when he thinks of climate, he thinks of jobs,” Regan said, echoing a refrain from Biden on climate change. The transition to safer alternatives and more energy-efficient cooling technologies is expected to generate more than $ 270 billion in savings and public health benefits over the next 30 years, Regan said.

A pandemic relief and spending bill passed by Congress last December orders the EPA to sharply reduce the production and use of HFCs. The measure has won broad support and has been hailed as the most important climate change law in at least a decade.

In addition to targeting HFCs, the American Innovation and Manufacturing, or AIM, Act also promotes technologies for capturing and storing carbon dioxide produced by power plants and manufacturing and calls for reductions in diesel emissions from buses and other vehicles.

Senator Tom Carper, D-Del., Who is chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, was an influential supporter of the law, along with Senator John Kennedy, R-La. Both represent states that are home to chemical companies that produce alternative refrigerants and have sought regulatory certainty through federal action.

The supply of HFCs was supported by an unusual coalition that included major environmental and business groups including the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Chemistry Council, and the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute. The chemistry council represents large companies including Dow DOW,
DuPont DD,
Honeywell HON,
Chemours CC,
and Arkema AKE,
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The administration said it was also taking other steps to ensure the reduction of HFCs, including the establishment of an interagency task force to prevent the illegal trade, production, use or sale of harmful gases. the climate. The working group will be led by the Department of Homeland Security and the EPA’s Air and Radiation and Enforcement and Assurance offices.

Working with the Departments of Justice, State and Defense, the task force will “detect, deter and disrupt any attempt to import or illegally produce HFCs into the United States,” the White House said. in an information sheet.

Joseph Goffman, a senior official with the EPA’s air and radiation office, said the European Union’s experience shows that law enforcement is an important part of cracking down on HFCs.

“Unfortunately, (the EU) has seen a lot of illegal activity” on HFC imports and other issues, Goffman said. “We are going to be vigorous and proactive” in trying to stop illegal imports, he said.

Biden issued an executive order in January that included a 2016 amendment to the 1987 Montreal Protocol on ozone pollution. This amendment calls on the United States and other major industrialized countries to reduce HFCs by 85% by 2036. The State Department has prepared documents for the formal ratification of the amendment, but the White House does not. has not submitted to the Senate.

McCarthy insisted “there is no delay” on the amendment, but said she did not know when Biden would bring the matter to the Senate.

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Karl M. Bailey

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