Bipartisan Bill Aims to Phase Down HFCs in the United States
On January 7, 2020 H.R. 5544 – American Innovation and Manufacturing Leadership Act (AIM Act) was introduced to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce by four representatives – two Republicans and two Democrats – receiving bipartisan support in congress. The AIM Act, which parallels Senate Bill S.2754, will phase-down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in accordance with global targets, spurring innovation and jobs while supporting U.S. economic and environmental interests. Commonly found in refrigerators, air-conditioning units, and foams, HFCs are super-pollutant greenhouse gases that are thousands of times more damaging to the climate than CO2.
The AIM Act has received overwhelming bipartisan support both in Congress and among industry and environmental organizations. So far, the bill has been co-sponsored by 36 congressmen – splitting evenly between Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate. Industry groups, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute; and Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy, have expressed their support along with environmental NGOs. Such a coalition proves both the climate and business incentive to phase-down unnecessary HFC emissions.
The AIM Act will set limits to gradually phase down HFC use, production, and imports over the course of the next fifteen years. This timeline is aligned with global targets thereby setting the United States on a course that is competitive with international markets. Furthermore, the bill allows for a potential acceleration of the phase-down. This allows industry to move-forward together and quicken their HFC reduction in future if and when this becomes feasible.
Over time, demand for these substances will decrease, which will improve the U.S. trade balance in chemicals and equipment. Currently, cheaply manufactured HFCs from China are pouring into the U.S. market. These imports undermine U.S. business interests and fuel an oversupply of refrigerants that are slowing our transition to more climate-friendly alternatives. The AIM Act will limit these imports by creating an allowance system and bring $12.5 billion USD to the United States through the equipment and chemical trade. These funds will create jobs, drive innovation and accelerate uptake of climate-friendly technology and refrigerant alternatives in the U.S. market.
As seen abroad in Europe and elsewhere, an HFC phase-down requires the implementation of recordkeeping mechanisms capable of tracking HFCs and other chemicals that enter and circulate the market. The AIM Act has taken this into account and creates requisite reporting requirements. These requirements will apply to all those who have: produced, imported, exported, reclaimed, destroyed, and used/entirely consumed. Reporting like this will effectively capture the trade in HFCs and can help set up a strong foundation for enforcement and traceability in the future.
In particular, EIA was pleased to see an emphasis on reclamation and destruction in the Bill. Future consideration and regulation authority is granted to EPA to maximize reclamation and minimize the unnecessary release of HFCs and other chemicals into the atmosphere. A global effort to capture HFCs and other fluorinated gases at their end of life can avoid nearly 100 billion tons of CO2 equivalent globally. EIA’s Search Reuse & Destroy report, emphasizes the global need for proper reclamation and destruction activities. The U.S. effort to account for end-of-life emissions, outlined in this bill, is a critical first-step in putting the U.S. on track to restore its leadership position on reducing HFCs by acting on the largest climate opportunity to address refrigerant management and disposal.
As we enter the new decade, climate action is needed now more than ever. Hellish fires in Australia and never-before-seen floods in Jakarta, follow the second hottest year on record and have painfully welcomed us into 2020. The bipartisan AIM Act is a promising opportunity for our leaders to act on climate change this year.
Hearings for the Bill begin tomorrow, Tuesday January 14, 2020 to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. EIA will be in attendance and looks forward to hearing from house representatives and others.
To learn more about EIA’s response to the AIM Act read our letter to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr and Ranking Member Greg Walden.