NRDC, Industry, Others Urge EPA to Curb Climate-Damaging HFCs
WASHINGTON – Environmental groups, the state of Colorado and industry associations today are urging the Environmental Protection Agency to quickly implement a major new climate law by restricting the use of super climate polluting hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in air conditioning, refrigeration, car air conditioners and other applications where there are safer alternatives.
The groups—including NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council)— are submitting five separate petitions calling for the EPA to use the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act enacted in December 2020 to begin phasing down key uses of HFCs for which there are safer alternatives. Pound for pound, HFCs warm the climate several thousand times more than carbon dioxide.
“Today’s petitions demonstrate common goals among environmental advocates, states and industry in the push to transition away from HFCs toward climate-friendlier alternatives—benefitting jobs, public health and our future,” said Alex Hillbrand, an HFC expert in the Climate & Clean Energy program at NRDC. “Now EPA must put the AIM Act into action by quickly moving these industries beyond reliance on climate-damaging chemicals.
“Doing so offers huge climate benefits, helps reassert U.S. leadership in the global fight against climate change and will provide consumers with products that chill their food, buildings, and cars without overheating the climate.”
The AIM Act—the biggest climate action measure enacted by the 116th Congress—gives EPA authority to phase down HFC production 85 percent over the next 15 years and to ban HFC uses that have ready alternatives. HFCs are used in air conditioners, refrigerators, insulating foams, aerosol products, and other applications.
The AIM Act can avoid HFC use equal to several billions of tons of CO2 over the next 15 years. The petitions will make sure that compliance with the phasedown is done in a timely manner. Here’s how they fit together.
Petitions to quickly reinstate Obama-era HFC rules
Petition 1: NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), joined by the state of Colorado and the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, (IGSD), asks EPA to reinstate two regulations, “SNAP Rules 20 and 21,” designed to eliminate HFCs from car air conditioners and from refrigeration, foams, and aerosols where safer alternatives are available. That petition is here.
Issued in 2015 and 2016, the two SNAP rules were blocked when a court held in 2017 that the Clean Air Act did not give EPA the authority to require current users of HFCs to switch to safer alternatives. In the AIM Act, Congress provided that authority.
In the meantime, 17 states in the U.S. Climate Alliance stepped in to partly fill the gap, nine of which have adopted those rules at the state level. By granting the petitions, EPA would restore the rules’ national scope.
“State leadership on the SNAP rules was instrumental in keeping HFCs at the forefront of the climate agenda during the Trump era,” said Christina Theodoridi, technical analyst in the Climate & Clean Energy program at NRDC. “Now it’s time to reinstate the SNAP rules nationwide.”
Petition 2: The Air conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) also submitted a petition – partially overlapping with NRDC’s – regarding HFC use in a variety of commercial refrigeration applications. While not identical, the two take a similar view where it counts: that EPA should quickly outlaw use of the most potent HFCs in supermarket systems and other big refrigeration installations, as it did in the SNAP rules.
Petitions to Extend California HFC Limits Nationwide
California recently adopted a suite of first-in-the-nation regulations to convert additional categories of air conditioners, refrigeration equipment, and heat pumps from high-potency HFCs to climate-friendlier alternatives. Three additional petitions seek to extend California’s HFC regulations nationwide.
Petition 3: The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), joined by NRDC and several others, is asking EPA to adopt all of California’s new HFC regulations on new equipment, including major restrictions on air conditioners, and to strengthen requirements on large new refrigeration systems installed in supermarkets and similar facilities to the point of virtually eliminating the climate impact of their refrigerant gases.
Petition 4: AHRI – which represents the major central air conditioning and heat pump manufacturers – asks EPA to nationalize the air conditioning-related elements of California’s new HFC regulations, effective on the same timeline as California’s. This would mark a rapid national transition to climate-friendlier air conditioning products going into homes across America.
Petition 5: The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) – representing the makers of cooling appliances like window and portable air conditioners – calls for a mandate to use climate-friendlier alternatives between 2023 and 2024 for most smaller air conditioning products, which NRDC supports.
“California’s carefully crafted new rule has charted a course for effective and ambitious national regulations,” Theodoridi added. “EPA can now build on California’s success with a broad base of support from industry and environmentalists.”
A blog on the petitions and their significance is here: https://www.nrdc.org/experts/christina-theodoridi/aim-act-allies-press-epa-move-industries-beyond-hfcs
NRDC’s petition is here: https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/hfc-petition-20210413.pdf
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NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.