Maryland and Connecticut Join New York, California in Phasing Out HFCs

This past week, Connecticut and Maryland announced that they would be joining New York and California in phasing out HFC refrigerants. The four states are taking the lead and hope to encourage others to follow suit in defiance of US government policy.

All four states will model their new regulations off of the previous EPA’s SNAP rules from 2015, which were dropped by the government of President Donald Trump.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said New York hoped to pick up the responsibility of climate leadership in the US in protest at what he called efforts by the Trump administration to roll back environmental protections and deny the impact of climate change.

Gov. Cuomo stated: “While the Trump administration denies climate change and rolls back efforts to protect our planet, New York is picking up the mantle of climate leadership and forging a path forward. We are taking action to begin the phase out of the use of hydrofluorocarbons, and I encourage other states to join with New York and California to combat dangerous HFCs. In New York we believe denial is not a life strategy, and we will continue to fight climate change to protect our economy, our planet, and our future.”

With Maryland and Connecticut now joining New York, California and Canada in calling for the phase-out of HFCs, it will help to drive the industry nationally and globally to phase out these pollutants. This will also benefit those U.S.-based businesses that produce the substitutes for HFCs.

With 3 states coming forward in the last week, it is likely that we will see more states join in the HFC phase-out. These states are all a part of the United States Climate Alliance. The United States Climate Alliance is a gathering of States and Territories that aim to uphold the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, which the Trump Administration pulled the United States out of last summer.

While there are only seventeen States in this alliance, it’s the size of the states that’s important. Over forty percent of the United States population resides in these States and over forty-five percent of the US GDP comes from these States.

States in the alliance are:

California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington

As more states follow suit, we will begin to phase out HFCs by default. If just under half of the country’s population are living in HFC phase down States, then it wouldn’t make sense for companies to continue using HFCs in newer applications. Why make two different models for different States if we can just make the switch and have one model in both States?

Several major HVAC and Refrigerant manufacturers have already announced their support for California’s HFC phase down law. If they are in favor, then we are inevitably going to see the end of HFC refrigerants in the United States.

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The Battle Continues to Phase-out HFCs

If you thought this story ended with the 2017 DC Circuit Court of Appeals decision to block EPA bans on HFCs, think again. Refrigerant manufacturers Chemours and Honeywell and green group NRDC have petitioned the US Supreme Court to review the DC Circuit Court of Appeals decision as the battle continues to phase-out HFCs.

In August 2017, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned EPA directives to ban high GWP refrigerants like R404A, R134a, R407C and R410A from use in certain applications. Chemours, Honeywell and the NRDC appealed the decision but that appeal was rejected at the beginning of this year. Now the three companies are taking their fight to phase-out HFCs to the Supreme Court.

Paul Kirsch, Chemours President of Fluoroproducts, expressed disappointment in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision.

“We believe that the legal basis of the SNAP 20 rule was well-founded, and the Court’s ruling exceeded its jurisdiction, effectively invalidating a decades-old EPA regulation and believe the decision has failed to take into account the EPA’s original directive to ensure that safer alternatives are used to replace ozone-depleting substances,” Kirsch said. “A number of states, academia, and businesses share our concern and feel the preservation of this rule is in the best interest of the public, the environment, and US industry.”

Honeywell claims that American companies have invested more than $1bn to invent, commercialise and manufacture safer replacement alternatives to ozone-depleting substances, such as HFOs. “The DC Circuit decision undermines the innovation and investments that American businesses have made to create and transition to safer alternatives,” it says.

The NRDC commented on the original appeal ruling: “If allowed to stand, [it] will let HFCs keep fuelling dangerous climate change, increasing risks for the millions of Americans who are living through hurricanes and other extreme weather events, and experiencing many other climate impacts.”

Meanwhile, earlier this month, New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood, along with a coalition of 11 Attorneys General, filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District Columbia Circuit against the U.S. EPA. The suit challenges the EPA’s decision to completely void 2015 regulations pertaining to the use of HFCs and argues that rescinding the rule violates the Clean Air Act.

“The Trump EPA seems intent on taking every opportunity to undermine efforts to fight climate change,” said AG Bob Ferguson. “It’s irresponsible, dangerous, and contrary to the purpose of the EPA.”

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to maintain lists of safe and prohibited substitutes for ozone-depleting chemicals. The EPA originally listed HFCs as safe substitutes. In 2015, the EPA issued a rule listing HFCs as “unacceptable” substitutes because of their high global warming potential.

Two major manufacturers of HFCs, Mexichem Fluor and Arkema, sued the EPA over the 2015 rule. In that case, the court held that the EPA lacks legal authority to require a product manufacturer that has already replaced an ozone-depleting chemical with HFCs to switch to a safer alternative.

In April 2018, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt went beyond the Mexichem court ruling and issued “guidance” completely reversing the 2015 rule. This removes the HFC restriction for all entities, not just for product manufacturers that currently use HFCs.

The states contend the EPA’s “guidance” rescinded the rule without the required notice or comment period. The Clean Air Act requires notice and comment prior to adopting or repealing a rule.

The states’ decision to sue the EPA adds to the growing pressure on the U.S. to take action on phasing-out HFCs at the federal level and to ratify the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.

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