California Moves To Phasedown HFC Refrigerants

Not everyone has lost hope since the Environmental Protection Agency’s SNAP Rule 20 was overturned by a federal court last August. This SNAP Rule 20 was the EPA’s planned phase down and phase out of HFC refrigerants across the United States. This Rule had been the law of the land for nearly two years before this sudden court ruling put everything into a tailspin. Now, no one knows for sure what is going to happen.

There have been a series of appeals by Honeywell and Chemours, there have been bills introduced in the United States’ Senate, and there is talk about ratifying the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. All of this though is merely conjecture and so far none of them have proven to be a promising alternative. So far the appeals have failed, the Senate Bill is stalled and most likely won’t pass due to Trump and Republican controlled Houses, and Trump hasn’t indicated one way or the other if he will be pushing the Kigali Amendment for Senate ratification. The question now though is what happens next?

States to the Rescue?

With all of this uncertainty now coursing through the industry there are some states that have taken it upon themselves to enact their own rules and regulations. I’m a big States Rights guy in the first place and so I am hugely in favor of this. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) will have more powers for regulations on refrigerants based on two new State Senate bills SB1383 and SB1013. (They were both introduced by State Senator Ricardo Lara.)The goal of both of these bills are to reduce the usage and consumption of the ‘Super Pollutants,’ known as HFC refrigerants. These include the ever so common refrigerants such as R-134a, R-404A, R-507A, R-410A, along with other HFCs.

For the most part both of these new bills actually mimic the Federal Government’s original EPA SNAP Rule 20 plan. There are slight changes here and there but the overall aim remains the same.  (The EPA SNAP Rule 20 fact sheet can be found by clicking here.) Under the SB 1383 California must reduce their HFC emissions by forty percent below 2013 levels by the year 2030. While this goal may seem a bit extreme it is worth noting that this goal is significantly less than the Kigali Amendment that is still in limbo. (Kigali wanted an eighty-five percent reduction by 2036.) This SB 1383 bill is the first step into reducing the usage, imports, and production of HFC refrigerants within California. An excerpt from the bill is below:

This bill would require the state board, no later than January 1, 2018, to approve and begin implementing that comprehensive strategy to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants to achieve a reduction in methane by 40%, hydrofluorocarbon gases by 40%, and anthropogenic black carbon by 50% below 2013 levels by 2030, as specified. The bill also would establish specified targets for reducing organic waste in landfills. – California Senate Bill 1383

This bill will be accomplished by stopping manufacturers from using HFC refrigerants in new machines and applications as well as retrofitting existing machines over to cleaner refrigerants. These applications where HFCs can no longer be used include supermarket refrigerators and freezers, food processing machines, self-contained refrigeration units, and vending machines. Like with most phase downs there is ample time for businesses and contractors to adapt to these changes. Remember, the deadline is 2030, so there are nearly twelve years for everyone to adapt.

Another rule, SB1013, restricts the use of HFC refrigerants in air conditioners and refrigerant applications. This bill gives CARB a few powers to wield. One of the most important of these powers is that it gives CARB the ability to grant incentives and benefits to businesses that move away from HFCs towards climate friendlier options like Hydrocarbons or HFOs. An excerpt from the bill is below:

This bill would establish the Fluorinated Gases Emission Reduction Incentive Program, to be administered by the state board, to promote the adoption of new refrigerant technologies to achieve short- and long-term climate benefits, energy efficiency, and other cobenefits, as specified. The bill would authorize moneys from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to be allocated for incentives offered as part of the program. – California Senate Bill 1013


Even though the rest of the country is still somewhat in a shroud of mystery on HFCs, California has taken their first step forward. With these two bills California has begun moving away from HFC refrigerants and towards the future of Hydrocarbons and HFOs. The good news is that many businesses have already begun planning for the phase down of HFCs so while the court’s ruling in August was a surprise I have a feeling that many companies were already prepared and are now just continuing on like the phase down is occurring anyways. HFCs are going away, it’s just a matter of time.

California has always been a trend setter and the first of many. The question now is will other States begin to follow suit? These changes may go the route that Net Neutrality went late last year. Even though the regulation was overturned by the FCC there have been many States that have begun adopting their own policies. As I said earlier, I am a big fan of State powers over Federal power and by having these States move forward with their own HFC laws we will achieve the same goal of phasing down HFCs across the country.