Well ladies and gentlemen like dominoes in a line we now have a second state coming forward with their own HFC refrigerant phase down laws. At the end of last month we had California make their HFC phase down bill become official when their legislate voted in favor on August 30th. This new law known as the California Cooling Act (SB 1013) is aimed at reducing HFC usage across the state with a carrot and stick approach.
The carrot is that the state will be offering incentives for low Global Warming Potential refrigeration systems. To start the main target of these incentives will be focused on supermarket and industrial refrigeration applications. The stick approach is preserving the now defunct Environmental Protection Agency’s SNAP Rule 20.
As most of you know, the EPA’s SNAP Rule 20 was the announced planned phase down and eventual phase out of HFC refrigerants across the United States. This Rule 20 was announced back in the summer of 2015 and was to begin phasing down HFCs progressively year after year. The EPA created this regulation based off of their power found in the Clean Air Act and the Montreal Protocol. There was a problem in this logic though, the Montreal Protocol and the section of the Clean Air Act that was used strictly specified Ozone depleting chemicals such as CFCs and HCFCs. HFC refrigerants such as R-404A and R-134a do NOT contain Chlorine and therefore do not fall under the Clean Air Act/Montreal Protocol.
A Federal Court ruled against the EPA’s Rule in August of 2017. The ruling came as a shock to those in the industry and there was an appeal filed only a few weeks later by Honeywell and Chemours. The appeal court ruling occurred early in 2018 and the court again ruled against the EPA and Honeywell/Chemours. The EPA had overstepped it’s bounds and could not phase down HFCs without proper legislation.
With the current administration in power there was and is little hope of a comprehensive HFC refrigerant phase down bill from being passed. Another hope for climate advocates was the Kigali Amendment. The Kigali Amendment was an addendum to the Montreal Protocol that was signed by various countries in 2016. This amendment again aimed at phasing down HFC refrigerants across the globe. Over the years many countries have ratified this amendment, however one of the remaining countries to do so is the United States. No one is for sure what the Trump Administration will do on this amendment. Will they push it to the Senate to ratify, will they kill it, or will they just sit on it and let it drift off into purgatory?
This is where the States’ Rights have come into play. I’ve always been a big proponent of the States making their own decisions and this is no different. California signed their bill late last month and just today we have an announcement from Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of New York, that New York will be adopting the EPA’s SNAP Rule 20 as law in New York. This is now the second state to create their own EPA type regulation in order to combat the impact of Greenhouse Gases like HFC refrigerants.
Like the California law the New York regulation is very similar. The goal is to enact the proposed changes from the EPA’s original ruling. What that means is that we are going to see impact right away in a few sections of the industry. The biggest and most significant impact is automotive.
In the original ruling the EPA stated that R-134a would no longer be accepted in new vehicles from model year 2021 and beyond. Now, a lot of car manufacturers have already begun switching over from 134a over to 1234yf, but not all of them have. This now gives car manufacturers only a few years to comply with this new law if they want to sell vehicles in California or New York. The hope with these regulations is to force the hand of manufacturers to only use GWP friendly refrigerants and if enough States sign on then this very well may happen.
Another change will be the food refrigeration equipment found in supermarkets, vending machines, refrigerators, and freezers. With the first major change hitting in 2020 targeting supermarket systems and vending machines, the next change in 2021 targeting household refrigerators and freezers. And in 2023 targeting industrial cold storage warehousing.
The last major change will be on stationary air conditioning equipment such as centrifugal chillers and positive displacement chillers. The target for these is January 1st, 2024.
Are these two states the first of many? Will we begin to see the dominoes fall so to speak and see other states fall in line? If so, should we even bother with the Kigali Amendment or should we just let the States decide and move on from there?