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EPA Proposes Rescinding Controls on Leaks of Superpollutant HFCs

Today the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it will issue a proposed rule rescinding requirements to control leaks and venting of superpollutant hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) from refrigeration and air conditioning equipment.

“The proposed roll back of pivotal controls, intended to reduce superpollutant leaks from some of the highest leaking systems operating today, flies directly in the face of common sense. Having these measures in place not only would have reduced emissions equivalent to taking some 1.5 million cars off the road each year, it also would have made American industry more efficient in using controlled refrigerants,” said Avipsa Mahapatra, EIA Climate Campaign Lead. “Without these EPA controls, only California currently has a program to limit leaks of such superpollutants. Facilities across the rest of the country now will be allowed to leak and vent unlimited quantities of HFCs with no accountability.”

These requirements were put in place under the previous presidential administration, promulgated under Section 608 of the Clean Air Act, which works to curtail emissions of refrigerants by regulating the allowable refrigerant leakage rates of refrigeration and air-conditioning systems. These limits on refrigerant leaks previously only applied to ozone depleting refrigerants, but were extended in 2016 under the Obama Administration to cover HFCs due to their climate impacts. The rules applied to supermarkets and other owners of large refrigeration and air conditioning equipment and required them to perform repairs and leak inspections as well as undergo reporting to the EPA if systems leaked refrigerants above a certain threshold; the rules were scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2019.

“Last week a small group of leading states took the lead on HFCs by backstopping other EPA rules that regulated HFCs in new equipment. With this new development, we call on those states and others to now also take up this issue of HFC refrigerant leaks in existing equipment,” said Christina Starr, EIA Climate Policy Analyst. “We can’t afford to wait for this rulemaking to be finalized to take action. Refrigerant leaks are a massive contributor to greenhouse gases with U.S. supermarkets alone leaking emissions annually that are equivalent to 17 coal-fired power plants.”

EPA has released an advance copy of the signed proposed rule and will hold a public hearing 15 days following its publication in the federal register. The rulemaking will be open for a 45 day public comment period.

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Recent Blog Posts

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Supermarkets in particular have enormous refrigeration systems that extend past the display cases to back room chillers, refrigerated trucks, cold warehouses and so on. With such large systems, supermarkets are among the largest corporate offenders of HFC use, with thousands of tons of these chemicals throughout their cold chain. Yet out of nearly 40,000 supermarkets in the U.S., barely 1% are known to have transitioned to HFC-free systems; our Supermarket Scorecard shows that action and change throughout the industry is needed. These large companies have a greater climate footprint than you or me, and thus a greater responsibility to transition to climate-friendly alternatives.
Finding the Promise in Compromise: EIA Proposal to Jumpstart California HFC Reclaim
07/27/2020
Last week EIA participated in California’s Air Resources Board (ARB) 6th workshop on proposed regulations to reduce emissions of super pollutant hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used in cooling. The state’s rigorous process for proposing new regulations on HFC refrigerants has been ongoing for several years now and is in the final stretch. Opportunities for stakeholder engagement have been abundant and ARB has invited input from industry along the way. They even aligned with an industry proposed 2023 deadline for transitioning new air conditioning equipment to refrigerants with a global warming potential (GWP) less than 750.

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Recent Press Releases

Climate-friendly Supermarket Scorecard
06/25/2020
Today, EIA launched the Climate-friendly Supermarket Scorecard assessing the largest U.S. supermarkets on actions and commitments to reduce hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) - potent greenhouse gases used in cooling.
China Proposes Stronger Steps to Protect our Climate and Ozone
05/21/2020
Today, China proposed a new national plan to tackle hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), potent greenhouse gases used primarily in cooling.
What are the HFC-free Technologies?
Widespread adoption of HFC-free technologies is cost-effective, energy efficient, and climate-friendly. Read EIA’s report Putting the Freeze on HFCs for hundreds of examples of HFC-free technologies available and in use today.
A Global HFC Phase-down
The October 2016 Montreal Protocol meeting in Kigali, Rwanda yielded a global agreement to phase down HFCs. Now countries must ratify and implement the Kigali Amendment! Read and share EIA's briefing on this great opportunity and obligation to avert climate catastrophe.
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