Just a few days ago, on April 13th, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that they will be delaying the SNAP Rule 20 HFC phase downs that were announced back in the summer of 2015. This announcement may not come to a surprise to a lot of you, that is if you have been following the drama over the past year on HFC refrigerants and the EPA’s SNAP Rule 20.
When the initial rule was announced in 2015 by the EPA the industry was somewhat surprised but like with most phase downs/phase outs there was plenty of time on the clock before the real changes had to take place. Contractors, distributors, and manufacturers all slowly got ready for the move away from HFCs. Everything was going as expected, but then in the summer of 2017 a Federal Court overturned the EPA’s SNAP Rule 20.
My article on this from last year can be found by clicking here.
This ruling turned everything on it’s head and put the industry in a wave of uncertainty. While there was a wave of appeals filed by Honeywell, Chemours, and other groups they were all overturned or ruled against. It was towards the beginning of 2018 that the reality began to set in. The EPA’s SNAP Rule 20 was dead, and now this week the EPA has all but confirmed it. See the below excerpt from the EPA’s published note:
This notice provides guidance to stakeholders that, based on the court’s partial vacatur, in the near-term EPA will not apply the HFC listings in the 2015 Rule, pending a rule making. – Source
This motion suspends all of the rules that were laid out in SNAP Rule 20. Some of these were just around the corner too such as the vending machine move away from R-404A that was to start in January 1st, 2019. Another one was the upcoming unacceptable use of R-134a in new 2021 automotive model years. I won’t get into every detail on the rule but if you want to read more about it then check the EPA’s official fact sheet.
Along with the court ruling and loss of appeals there were also many industry advocate groups such as National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) pushing for a delay to these rules. NAMA was founded all the way back in 1936 and now represents the twenty-five billion dollar United States’ convenience industry. They aim to provide education, research, and advocacy for the industry. In fact, NAMA lobbied so well that they had an in person meeting with the Environmental Protection Agency even before the court ruling came down in August of last year. It was these groups along with pressure from the courts that finally led to this announcement from the EPA.
For a lot of people there just wasn’t enough time for manufacturers and companies to come up with solid alternatives that was cost effective, safe, and that still met the EPA’s guidelines. The good news here is that by having the Environmental Protection Agency publicly come out and comment on the court ruling and their rules they are able to remove the sense of uncertainty that has clouded the industry since last summer. The planned SNAP Rule 20 is no longer valid. Today, we are waiting in limbo to see what the EPA proposes next but at least we know that the EPA has recognized the ruling.
No one is for sure what the Environmental Protection Agency will decide in the future. Will there be a new rule to phase out these high Global Warming Potential refrigerants? Does the EPA even have that authority anymore due to the court ruling in August? Or, is all of this movement just a reaction to the court’s ruling? Another part of good news here is that the EPA will be holding a stake holder’s meeting scheduled on May 4th of this year. This meeting will be designed to get input from the various industries so that the EPA can come up with a new set of HFC refrigerant rules in the near future.
Besides going through the EPA there are a couple of other options out there to phase down or phase out HFC refrigerants. We could have the State Department push the ratification of the Kigali Amendment to the Senate and we could fall back to the tried and true Montreal Protocol. Or, the other option is to replicate what California has done and have HFC regulations and rules by each state.
Either way folks don’t be fooled into thinking that HFCs are going to stay around for a while. Their time has come and passed. We are slowly entering into the world of HFOs and Hydrocarbons. All of these bumps in the road are just that, bumps. We will still get to our destination.