Back in September of this year the Environmental Protection Agency announced that they would be removing their HFC rule that went in place back in September of 2016. This rule, which can be found by clicking here, applied Section 608 CFC/HCFC leak controls and regulations to appliances using HFC refrigerants that contained over fifty pounds of refrigerant. Basically, it passed on the same regulations that we had on CFC/HCFC refrigerants over to HFCs. With the introduction of this proposed rule there was also a forty-five day comment period for individuals, companies, and yes… States to comment on. The deadline for this comment period was yesterday, the 15th. Lo and behold, a nicely written ‘comment’ was sent to the EPA on the 15th.
This comment, actually a letter, was created by what’s known as the United States Climate Alliance, or USCA. This alliance is a mixture of various States that came together when the Trump Administration announced that they were pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord. These sixteen States include New York, Washington, New Jersey, Oregon, and California. In fact, the letter was signed and sent by the Attorney General of California, Xavier Becerra. The letter, which can be found by clicking here, requests that the EPA withdraw it’s proposed rule changes and keep current regulations intact.
The argument for this withdrawal is that the EPA has not provided sufficient evidence or legal reasoning for the reversal of their 2016 rule. I’ll tell you right now that I am trying to remain neutral here but the EPA has provided reasoning as to why they are rolling back these leak regulations. The reasoning is simple. The Clean Air Act and the Montreal Protocol were all designed to phase out Ozone depleting refrigerants. These are your CFCs and HCFCs such as R-12, R-22, and R-502. The Clean Air Act was not intended to phase down or regulate refrigerants that do not harm the Ozone layer. Yes, HFCs do contribute significantly to Global Warming due to their high Global Warming Potential but there is a distinction here between Global Warming and a damaged Ozone layer. This distinction is the reasoning that the EPA is using for their roll back. This reasoning though is not sufficient for the States in the Climate Alliance.
Rather you like it or not, the truth is that the initial 2016 rule should not have been issued based off of the Clean Air Act. It was a stretch and everyone knew it. It was done because it was easy, but just like building a house: If you don’t have a good foundation then your house is going to crumble. The same thing has happened again and again on HFCs. We have had Federal Courts overturning EPA HFC regulations and now the Trump controlled EPA is looking at overturning HFC regulations based off of Ozone depleting laws. All this could have been preventable by going through Congress.
Another point that I noticed while reading this letter from California is that there are many references and out right assumptions that the Ozone will be affected if these regulations are rolled back. That is simply not the case. It looks to me like they are trying to muddy the waters here so that when a laymen reads through this they end up believing that the Ozone is in danger yet again. Please do not take my criticism here as a favor for one side of the other, instead I am just bringing forward the facts from both sides.
Now that the comment period is over I imagine that we will have to sit and be patient as the Environmental Protection Agency reviews any and all comments on their new rule… including this letter from the Climate Alliance. At this time what the EPA will decide is unknown, but if I was to put money on it then I would say that they are going to move forward with rescinding the leak regulations. You may not agree with it, but that is where the winds are blowing today.
On top of that, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see the refrigerant purchase restrictions on HFCs be removed soon as well. Even though this purchase restriction has only been in effect since January of this year it was a holdover from the Obama EPA and may end up on the chopping block as well.
If the EPA does decide to remove these regulations then the burden of regulation will fall to the States just like it has with the EPA’s SNAP Rule 20. There have already been a few States that have announced their own HFC phase down plans. Depending on what the EPA decides we may see many more join this Climate Alliance and work to phase down HFCs at the State level.