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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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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.
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