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EPA sets stricter limits on hydrofluorocarbons used in refrigerators, air conditioners

by Joshua Brown
5 comments
HFC regulations

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced stricter regulations on hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are potent greenhouse gases commonly used in refrigerators and air conditioners. These HFCs contribute significantly to global warming. The new rule, revealed on Tuesday, will enforce a 40% overall reduction in HFCs starting next year. This reduction is part of a global phaseout initiative aimed at combating climate change. The rule aligns with a 2020 law that mandates an 85% reduction in the production and use of these harmful chemicals by 2036.

According to officials, the implementation of this rule will result in a significant decrease in HFC emissions from refrigeration and air conditioning systems sold in the United States. This marks the second step in a 15-year process to gradually phase out the use of HFCs, which were once widely used in cooling and refrigeration equipment.

Now let’s delve into the topic of HFCs and explore the efforts being made by the United States and other countries to limit their use.

What are HFCs?

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are extremely potent greenhouse gases commonly employed in refrigerators and air conditioners. These substances produce greenhouse gases that are thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide. They frequently escape through pipes or appliances that utilize compressed refrigerants, making them a significant driver of global warming.

What measures are being taken to limit HFCs?

Over 130 countries, including the United States, have signed a global agreement in 2016 to substantially reduce the production and use of HFCs by 2036. Last year, the Senate ratified the Kigali Amendment, an addition to the 1987 Montreal Protocol on ozone pollution, in a rare bipartisan vote. The amendment necessitates participating nations to gradually phase out the production and use of HFCs by 85% over the next 13 years. This phaseout is part of a global effort to mitigate climate change.

Scientists have stated that the Kigali Agreement, reached in Rwanda, could prevent a half-degree Celsius of global warming. The amendment’s ratification, signed by President Joe Biden last year, follows the bipartisan action taken by Congress in 2020 with the approval of the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act. This act phased out domestic HFC manufacturing and accelerated the industry’s transition from HFCs to alternative refrigerants that are less harmful and readily available throughout the country. The law also eliminated the previous patchwork of state regulations and laws governing HFCs.

What does the latest rule entail?

The recently announced rule builds upon the requirement for a 10% reduction in HFCs by the end of this year. It mandates a 40% overall reduction from 2024 to 2028. Companies engaged in the production, import, export, destruction, use, processing, or recycling of HFCs are subject to this rule.

EPA officials have emphasized that this rule will position the United States as a leader in implementing the Kigali Amendment worldwide. The phasedown of HFCs, combined with domestic innovations in developing alternative chemicals and equipment, allows the United States to combat climate change and strengthen its global competitiveness. This was stated by Joe Goffman, the principal deputy assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. White House climate adviser Ali Zaidi believes that this rule will encourage the development of next-generation refrigeration technologies, ensuring that American workers benefit from the growing global market for HFC alternatives.

What is the industry’s response?

The Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute, representing manufacturers of air conditioning, heating, and commercial refrigeration equipment, considers the rule a crucial step in implementing the AIM Act. AHRI president & CEO Stephen Yurek expressed gratitude for the EPA’s work and the timely issuance of the rule in preparation for the next step-down in HFC reduction scheduled for January.

The American Chemistry Council, representing chemical manufacturers and users, welcomed the EPA rule. The council stated in a release that it has long supported the phasedown of HFCs, which can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions while creating manufacturing jobs and expanding the nation’s share of the global air conditioning and refrigeration market. The council also added that effective alternatives to HFCs have been developed by U.S. companies.

What are the consequences for non-compliance by industry?

The EPA rule includes various administrative penalties, such as license revocation and retirement of allowances, for companies that fail to comply. Fines and criminal penalties can also be imposed. The EPA has already finalized administrative consequences for the retirement of more than 6.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent for 2022 and 2023. This applies to companies that misreported data or imported HFCs without the required allowances.

Since January 2022, an interagency task force led by the EPA and the Department of Homeland Security has successfully prevented illegal HFC shipments at the border, equivalent to over 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. This accomplishment is comparable to the carbon emissions produced by more than 200,000 homes in one year.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about HFC regulations

What are hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and how do they contribute to global warming?

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are highly potent greenhouse gases commonly used in refrigerators and air conditioners. They contribute to global warming by producing greenhouse gases that are thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide. HFCs leak through pipes and appliances that use compressed refrigerants, making them a major driver of global warming.

What measures are being taken to limit the use of HFCs?

Over 130 countries, including the United States, have signed a global agreement to significantly reduce the production and use of HFCs by 2036. The Kigali Amendment, ratified by the Senate, requires participating nations to phase down the production and use of HFCs by 85% over the next 13 years. Additionally, the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act has phased out domestic HFC manufacturing and promoted the use of alternative refrigerants.

What does the new EPA rule on HFCs entail?

The new EPA rule enforces a 40% overall reduction in HFCs starting from 2024 to 2028. It applies to companies involved in the production, import, export, destruction, use, processing, or recycling of HFCs. Non-compliance can result in penalties such as license revocation, retirement of allowances, fines, and criminal penalties.

How will the new EPA rule impact the United States?

The rule will lead to a significant decrease in HFC emissions from refrigeration and air conditioning systems sold in the United States. It aims to align with global efforts to combat climate change and positions the United States as a leader in implementing the Kigali Amendment. The rule encourages the development of alternative chemicals and equipment, fostering innovation and strengthening the country’s global competitiveness.

What is the industry’s response to the EPA rule on HFCs?

Industry associations, such as the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute, and the American Chemistry Council, have expressed support for the EPA rule. They view it as a crucial step in implementing the phasedown of HFCs, which can reduce greenhouse gas emissions while creating manufacturing jobs and expanding the market for air-conditioning and refrigeration products. Effective alternatives to HFCs have already been developed by U.S. companies.

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5 comments

NatureLover123 July 12, 2023 - 4:44 pm

hfc bad for environment, glad they making rules to reduce it. fridges and acs need to be more eco-friendly!

Reply
EnviroGeek July 12, 2023 - 6:44 pm

Kudos to EPA for the rule on HFCs! We need stricter regulations to combat global warming. Let’s protect our environment together!

Reply
ClimateWarrior22 July 12, 2023 - 10:57 pm

The new EPA rule is a big step to tackle climate change. Limiting HFCs in appliances will help save the planet. Go, go, go!

Reply
GreenTechEnthusiast July 13, 2023 - 12:51 am

HFCs = bad news. They leak, they warm the planet. Thank you EPA for cracking down on them. Let’s go green!

Reply
CoolKid17 July 13, 2023 - 2:22 am

epa setting stricter limits on hfc in refridgerators and acs. finally taking action on global warming. bout time!!

Reply

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