EPA rule severely limits HFCs, other gases used as refrigerants | Business



WASHINGTON – In what authorities call a key step in the fight against climate change, the Environmental Protection Agency is severely limiting the national production and use of hydrofluorocarbons, very potent greenhouse gases commonly used in refrigerators and air conditioners.

The new rule announced Thursday follows a law passed by Congress last year and aims to reduce the production and use of HFCs in the United States by 85% over the next 15 years, as part of a global elimination designed to slow global warming.

The administration is also taking action to crack down on imports of HFCs, greenhouse gases thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide. They often leak through pipes or devices that use compressed refrigerants and are considered a major contributor to global warming. President Joe Biden has pledged to adopt a 2016 global deal to dramatically reduce HFCs by 2036.

White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy, a former EPA administrator, said the new rule was “a victory over the climate and a victory over jobs and American competitiveness.” This is really, frankly, guys, a really big deal. ”

The rule, which is expected to come into effect in late October, is expected to reduce harmful emissions by the equivalent of 4.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2050, said McCarthy, a total similar to three years of emissions. of the American electricity sector.

EPA administrator Michael Regan said the phase-down is supported by a coalition of industry groups who see it as an opportunity to “supercharge” US leadership in domestic manufacturing and production of alternative refrigerants. The industry has long turned to the use of alternative refrigerants and pushed for a federal standard to avoid a patchwork of state laws and regulations.

“This action reaffirms what President Biden always says – that when he thinks of climate, he thinks of jobs,” Regan said, echoing a refrain from Biden on climate change. The transition to safer alternatives and more energy efficient cooling technologies is expected to generate more than $ 270 billion in savings and public health benefits over the next 30 years, Regan said.

A pandemic relief and spending bill passed by Congress last December orders the EPA to sharply reduce the production and use of HFCs. The measure, known as American Innovation and Manufacturing, has won broad bipartisan support. The law also includes separate measures to promote technologies to capture and store carbon dioxide produced by power plants and manufacturing plants and calls for reductions in diesel emissions from buses and other vehicles.

Senator Tom Carper, D-Del., Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, was an influential supporter of the law, along with Senator John Kennedy, R-La. Both represent states that are home to chemical companies that produce alternative refrigerants and have sought regulatory certainty through federal action.

At a signing ceremony Thursday, Carper said the new rule was “a big step forward in tackling the climate crisis,” although many Americans have probably never heard of HFCs or realized how much. point they contribute to global warming.

The HFC provision in the new law was supported by an unusual coalition that included major environmental and business groups, including the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Chemistry Council, and the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute. The chemicals council represents large companies such as Dow, DuPont, Honeywell, Chemours and Arkema.

The administration said it was also taking other steps to ensure the reduction of HFCs, including the establishment of an interagency task force to prevent the illegal trade, production, use or sale of harmful gases. the climate. The working group will be led by the Department of Homeland Security and the EPA’s Air and Radiation and Enforcement and Assurance offices.

Working with the departments of Justice, State and Defense, the task force will “detect, deter and disrupt any attempt to import or illegally produce HFCs into the United States,” the White House said. in an information sheet.

Joseph Goffman, a senior official with the EPA’s air and radiation office, said the European Union’s experience shows that law enforcement is an important part of cracking down on HFCs.

“Unfortunately, (the EU) has seen a lot of illegal activity” on HFC imports and other issues, Goffman said. “We are going to be vigorous and proactive” in trying to stop illegal imports, he said.

David Doniger, a climate and clean energy expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the EPA’s action was important, even as the Biden administration pushed for ambitious climate legislation to be passed by Congress.

“Shifting from HFCs to more climate-friendly alternatives is an important part of President Biden’s plan to address the climate crisis by reducing US heat-trapping emissions by at least half by 2030 – with great benefits for jobs, our health and a more secure future, says Doniger.

Biden issued an executive order in January that included a 2016 amendment to the 1987 Montreal Protocol on ozone pollution. This amendment calls on the United States and other major industrialized countries to reduce HFCs by 85% by 2036. The State Department prepared documents for the formal ratification of the amendment, but the White House did not. not submitted to the Senate.


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