New Jersey Signs Bill on HFC Refrigerant Phase Down

Last Friday, the 26th of January, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law Senate Bill 3919. This law mimics the Environmental Protection Agency’s SNAP Rules twenty and twenty-one. The New Jersey bill does have not specific dates set yet for each of the proposed phase downs. These will be released at a later time and will have to be modified from the EPA’s original dates.

This now brings the total up to five states who have now signed into law various HFC phase down measures. These include California, Washington, New York, Vermont, and now New Jersey. There are many more to come though folks as all of these states belong to what’s called the Climate Alliance. This Climate Alliance was formed in the summer of 2017 shortly after the Trump Administration pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord.

The states that joined this alliance disagreed with the Trump Administration and announced that they would be taking their own individual state action. Their goal would be to honor the pledges made in the Paris Climate Accord as well as other climate treaties and regulations. As of today there are now twenty-three states in this Climate Alliance. This is important because all of the states that have moved forward on phasing down HFCs were part of this alliance and that the other states within this alliance have announced that they are looking towards HFC phase downs as well. It is just a matter of time before another state announces their HFC phase down plan.

We are beginning to see the domino effect here folks. But why? Why hasn’t the Federal Government or the EPA’s rules gone into effect? Well, to answer that I’ll have to give a bit of a history lesson. The infamous EPA SNAP Rules twenty and twenty-one were introduced in 2015. These rules were the initial HFC phase down regulations. They mainly targeted R-134a and R-404A. 404A wouldn’t be acceptable in new applications as of a certain date and R-134a wouldn’t be acceptable in automobiles as of a certain date.

When these new HFC regulations were introduced it was taken as the law of the land and the industry moved forward. It wasn’t until the summer of 2017 that everything changed. You see there was a lawsuit brought against the EPA and their new SNAP rules. The suit stated that the EPA had overreached its authority when it came to phasing down HFC refrigerants. The EPA had cited authority from the Clean Air Act and the Montreal Protocol Treaty but both of these documents only referred to Ozone damaging substances. There was no mention of Greenhouse Gases or refrigerants with a high Global Warming Potential (GWP).

The EPA had truly stretched their authority here and the federal courts saw it this way too. The EPA’s SNAP rules twenty and twenty-one were overturned and the national HFC phase down was gone in a blink of an eye. Now on one knew what to do or what to expect. The industry had operated for the past two years on the knowledge that HFCs would be phased down shortly and now all of that was gone.

There were multiple appeals on this federal court ruling but they were all rejected. One such appeal went all the way to the Supreme Court but the court refused to hear it… probably because it was so cut and dry that the EPA overreached its authority. The other chance to phase down HFC refrigerants came from what’s known as the Kigali Amendment. This was an amendment to the Montreal Protocol that aimed at phasing down HFC refrigerants on a global scale… just like we did with the Montreal Protocol back in the 1990’s and 2000’s. The problem with the Kigali though is that it has never been sent to the United States Senate to ratify. The Trump administration has sat on it for years and they have shown no intention to send it to the Senate.

But wait folks, there’s more! As I write this article there are now two separate HFC phase down bills in the United States Senate and the United States House. Both of these bills more or less aim to accomplish the same thing: Give the EPA the power to phase down and phase out HFC refrigerants. So far these bills have stalled and do not look to be going anywhere. Even if they do pass both houses and a joint bill is reached chances are Trump will veto it and then we will be back to where we were earlier.

So, we are now left with states’ rights. Politically, I am a big states’ rights guy anyways. This is why we are seeing individual states come out with their own laws. As more time passes additional states will come aboard with their own HFC phase down plan. As more states join manufacturers will be forced to adapt to these states’ new requirements and regulations. What that means is that we will eventually get a national phase down rather we like it or not.

This will be a battle of convenience to the manufacturers out there. Is it easier and cheaper to comply with the strictest regulations and be able to sell in all fifty states? Or, do you stick with the status quo and only be able to sell your product in forty states? How many manufacturers are willing to write off the California and New York market? Not very many I’m guessing. This is why we will see these manufacturers actively start moving away from HFCs even without a federal program.

So, in closing folks… there is no need for a federal or EPA plan. Let’s just keep this going with States’ Rights and eventually over time HFCs will be a thing of the past… rather you like it or not.