EPA Rolls Back HFC Leak Prevention Rule, Raising Cost and Climate Harm

A blue which is not really blue!

On February 26, 2020, EPA Administrator Andrew R. Wheeler signed the final rule Protection of Stratospheric Ozone: Revisions to the Refrigerant Management Program’s Extension to Substitutes. This action rescinds the November 18, 2016, extension of the leak repair provisions to appliances using substitute refrigerants, such has hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

The existing leak repair requirements and associated recordkeeping and reporting provisions prescribed in EPA’s November 2016, rulemaking for appliances containing substitutes remain in effect until 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. At that time, the leak repair provisions only apply to class I and class II ozone-depleting refrigerants, as defined in the regulations. This action does not rescind the applicability of the other 40 CFR Part 82 Subpart F provisions that were extended to certain substitute refrigerants (e.g., HFCs) such as the sales restriction and technician certification requirement, safe disposal requirements, evacuation requirements, reclamation standards, and requirement to use certified recovery equipment. This action does not affect the requirements for appliances containing ozone-depleting refrigerants.

With this rule, the Trump EPA has finalized the rollback of an Obama administration standard that set leak repair and maintenance requirements for industrial and commercial refrigeration and air conditioning equipment containing HFCs. The Obama administration’s rules simply extended to HFCs the leak prevention requirements already in place for the same industries for ozone-depleting refrigerants such as CFCs.

Following is a statement from David Doniger, senior strategic director in the Climate & Clean Energy Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council:

EPA’s payoff to big industries like Boeing, Eli Lilly, Proctor & Gamble, and Koch Industries makes no sense. This rollback will fuel the climate crisis by adding more super-polluting HFCs to the atmosphere each year, in an amount equal to the carbon pollution from one million cars. It will save industry just $24 million a year, a pittance when spread across thousands of industrial facilities”.

And this rollback is all the more baffling when industry – including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers – is supporting the same HFC leak prevention measures in the bipartisan legislation now moving forward in both the Senate and House”.

We are exploring all avenues to restore this commonsense, dirt-cheap measure that would stop HFC leaks and protect the climate”.

Among those supporting the Trump EPA rollback is NEDA/CAP, a coalition of companies that include the Boeing Company, BP America, Eli Lilly & Company, ExxonMobil Corporation, Georgia-Pacific LLC, Intel Corporation, Koch Industries, Inc., Merck & Co., Inc., NewPage Corp., Occidental Petroleum Corp., Procter & Gamble, and Weyerhaeuser… and this is enough to argue that the rule is not very much climate friendly!