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Landmark EPA Climate Rulemaking Takes Aim at U.S. Phasedown of Super-Pollutant HFCs

Washington, DC --- The Environmental Protection Agency has published a landmark new climate regulation to establish an allocation system to cap and begin phasing down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the super pollutant greenhouse gases used mainly in cooling. The White House also announced a series of actions coordinating across six federal agencies to accompany the rule, including creating an interagency task force on illegal HFC trade and several initiatives to advance alternative technologies and manage HFC stocks.  The actions are in line with implementing the global agreement under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol to reduce HFC consumption by at least 85% by 2035 and are expected to avoid more than 4.5 billion metric tons of CO2~ equivalent emissions by 2050.

In the U.S. and globally, enforcement will be the cornerstone of achieving our climate goals. To that end, the EPA rule includes innovative tracking and compliance measures and is accompanied by a new inter-agency task force on enforcement. The measures aim to prevent widespread illegal trade similar to that seen with ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in the nineties.

"This comprehensive plan to slash HFCs is also a watershed moment in modernizing implementation of our climate policies. A robust compliance and enforcement regime  using real time data and information as announced today will be essential to truly deliver on U.S goals to address the climate crisis," said Avipsa Mahapatra, Climate Campaign Lead at EIA. "We welcome the Interagency Task Force on Illegal HFC Trade to prevent a new black market in these super pollutants like we saw in the 1990s when CFC busts at the US-Mexico border were second only to marijuana in the value of goods seized."

Today's announcement marks the first in a series of anticipated HFC actions and rulemakings under the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act. The announcement also reinvigorates federal procurement efforts, including improved management of HFC stocks through purchasing reclaimed HFCs, research and deployment of HFC alternatives in military uses, and strategies to recover and reuse HFCs by the Department of Defense. Future EPA measures called for in the AIM Act include setting deadlines for new cooling systems to transition to climate-friendly technologies and maximizing the significant additional climate benefits of reducing leaks and increasing recycling and reuse of HFCs. 

"Today's announcement takes a first step in tackling proper management and reuse of HFCs. It's now imperative to adopt additional rules that ensure a swift transition to new technologies and full lifecycle management of these gases," said Christina Starr. "We will work with EPA and other stakeholders to seize the opportunity of leading the world towards mitigating another 100 billion tons CO2e by capturing, reusing, and properly disposing of these gases."  

The first reduction in allowed HFC production and imports will take effect January 1st, 2022. 

Notes to Editors:

  1. EPA's proposed compliance and enforcement measures include a requirement to use refillable cylinders labelled with QR codes that can be scanned into an electronic tracking database for registered certified allowances. More information here: https://eia-global.org/blog-posts/20210902-epa-hfcs-new-black-market
  2. EIA's petition to EPA to enact additional measures banning HFCs across various sectors is available at: https://eia-global.org/reports/20210413-aim-act-petition
  3. EPA's rule requires destruction of HFC-23 produced as a by-product of manufacturing HCFCs and HFCs. EIA comment on HFC-23 in the US: https://eia-global.org/press-releases/20210308-chemours-hfc-23-pr
  4. For information on documented HFC leaks from U.S. supermarkets see: https://www.climatefriendlysupermarkets.org/leaking-havoc
  5. For information on the 100 billion ton CO2e climate opportunity for lifecycle management of HFCs: https://eia-global.org/reports/20191106-search-reuse-destroy-global-discussion
  6. Coverage in the Washington Post of the announcement: Biden EPA finalizes its first climate rule, targeting hydrofluorocarbons - The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2021/09/23/biden-climate-rule-hydrofluorocarbons/
  7. EPA Press Release on Rulemaking: https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/us-will-dramatically-cut-climate-damaging-greenhouse-gases-new-program-aimed-chemicals
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