Last week a Federal Court in Washington, D.C. ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency’s ruling of planned phase-out of HFC refrigerants. This phase-out was announced by the EPA in 2015 and it’s goal was to have most, if not all, HFC refrigerants completely phased out in the United States by 2030. They were going to start with R-404A in 2018-2019, move on to R-134a for 2020-2021, and then lastly take on the King that is R-410A. Depending on your views this was phase-out was a godsend or a pain in the rear.
The EPA’s phaseout was thrown out by the court for one reason and one reason alone. The Obama administration put this HydroFluroCarbon refrigerant phase-out under the same umbrella that the CFCs and HCFCs were used to be phased out. They used Section 612 of the Clean Air Act. This section of the Clean Air Act strictly specifics on products that contain Chlorine or that cause damage to the Ozone layer. HFC refrigerants do not contain Chlorine nor do they cause ANY damaged to the Ozone. The courts looked at this and ruled in favor of the filing companies, Mexichem and Arkema. I wrote more in-depth on this ruling in a previous article that can be found by clicking here.
Well this ruling angered a lot of people including the two giant conglomerates DuPont/Chemours and HoneyWell. These two companies invested hundreds of millions into the new and expanding HFO refrigerant market. But if there is no phase-out of HFCs then their investment may just end up being sunk cost. If there is no mandatory ruling or phase-out then I could see HFCs lasting for quite a long time. (Especially R-410A.)
The AHRI, or America’s Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute, has said that one of these two major companies will very likely to file an appeal. These three organizations: AHRI, HoneyWell, and Chemours are pushing and lobbying as hard as they can to get these HFC phase-outs reinstated. But here’s the thing though, there has been no legislation drawn up to phase-out HFCs. No one is going through congress.
Maybe it’s just me but if we are going to be affecting an entire industry across the country wouldn’t it make sense to have Congress write, debate, and vote on a law? Why are we giving the EPA all of this authority to dictate what refrigerants can and cannot be phased-out across the country? Not to mention that the EPA is overstepping it’s bounds, and they know it, by using Section 612 of the Clean Air Act. This is pure overreach and government laziness.
What Happens Now?
Since the ruling is still ‘fresh’ and only happened last week no one knows quite for sure what impact this will have on the market. If this decision stands, which I hope it does, then the EPA will no longer be allowed to mandate phase-outs of HFCs using Section 612 of the Clean Air Act. This very well may be the wake up call that they need. As my father said and still says, ‘Do things the right way the first time.’
On top of all of that this ruling calls into question the Kigali Amendment that was put in place across one-hundred and seventy countries. This amendment aimed at phasing out HFC’s across the world by the year 2100. It is called an amendment because, you guessed it, they added it to The Montreal Protocol. So, yet again, countries got around creating new legislation/treaties and instead amended a treaty from thirty years ago that has nothing to do with HFC refrigerants. Now this whole amendment is called into question in the United States based on this court ruling. Will the US back out of it like we did with the Climate Paris Accord?
This may be my ignorance talking here but I am trying to understand AHRI’s position and why they are doing everything they can to push for these phase-outs to occur. They are all for phasing out HFC refrigerants across the country and providing even more shake-up to the refrigeration industry. The AHRI was quoted as saying,
AHRI is researching these other potential avenues and will work closely with the Government Affairs Committee to develop a formal industry position on how HFC and refrigerant regulation is best addressed.”
They also state that they still support Senate ratification of the Kigali Amendment and will continue to push for it, but they admit that it is now unclear whether ratification in the Senate alone would be enough or if additional legislation will be needed. It seems that the AHRI is on the side of the big business of HoneyWell and Chemours.
Overall, I am happy about this ruling. To me it seems like we are doing just fine and that it will not be the end of the world if our HFC refrigerant friends stick around for a while longer. Maybe long enough for the Congress to actually make a law and phase these refrigerants out the right way but I doubt that will happen with the current political climate. We may be at an impasse for the next four to eight years where HFC’s will reign supreme.