US Senate Introduces New HFC Phase Down Bill

Last week the United States Senate announced a bi-partisan bill that would give the Environmental Protection Agency the power to phase out HFC refrigerants over a fifteen year period. This bill is in response to the Trump Administration’s inaction on the Kigali Amendment. Back in 2016 the Obama Administration pledged their support of the Montreal Protocol amendment but when it came time for ratification the Trump Team sat on it and has not passed it to the Senate for review.

Over the past few years of there was a double blow to phasing out HFC refrigerants across the Untied States. Not only did Trump refuse to ratify the Kigali Amendment but we also saw the overturning of the EPA’s HFC phase down regulations. The EPA had planned a scheduled phase down and eventual phase out of popular HFC refrigerants such as R-404A and R-134a. This plan was announced back in 2015 but it was challenged in the courts by the MexiChem corporation.

The premise was that the EPA was using the Clean Air Act and the Montreal Protocol for their authority. The Clean Air Act was designed to phase out CFC and HCFC refrigerants due to the Chlorine that they contained. There was not a mention of HFC refrigerants in the law, only Chlorine Ozone damaging substances. The EPA’s SNAP Rule 20 was overturned by the courts and the proposed HFC phase down laws were erased.

The bill introduced last week is known as the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act. It was introduced by Democrat Senator Tom Carper of Delaware and Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana. Fourteen other senators announced their support for the bill as well.

The bill itself aims at phasing down and eventually out HFC refrigerants over a fifteen period. The bill was written with the consultation of various industry experts so that a fair timeline could be established for businesses for the phase down.

Déjà Vu

I feel like this new bill is déjà vu. We’ve seen this before. In fact, back in February of 2018 a bill was introduced by the same two Senators with the exact same name. They even referenced the same job report and economic numbers as they did previously. With this new bill Senators are promising an addition of one-hundred and fifty-thousand jobs and thirty-nine billion dollars of growth for our economy.

I just don’t see it folks. First of all, this bill isn’t going anywhere. It’s going to die in the Senate. Even if it did get to the House and by some miracle they passed it then Trump would veto it and we would be back where we started. Secondly, I am very skeptical of those job numbers economic growth.

What are these jobs? Manufacturing and plant workers? HVAC installations and retrofits? Is there going to be that much more demand for these new refrigerants? If so, what is happening to the existing systems? Is this new economic growth number the result of business owners and home owners being forced to upgrade or retrofit their systems? If this is the case then I wouldn’t call a government mandated purchase ‘economic growth.’  Instead, it is forcing business owners into compliance and causing a burden, especially on small business owners. This ‘growth’ has to come from somewhere.

Don’t get me wrong folks, I am not entirely against phasing out HFC refrigerants… but I’m not a fan of the way they are selling this to the legislators and to the people. They already tried this once with the EPA through a loophole, they got caught, and now they are trying to push a bill through with false/hopeful promises. It’s left a bad taste in my mouth.

Getting back to the topic on hand though, I do not see this bill going anywhere. The only chance that there is to pass a full scale HFC phase down law is to wait until after the 2020 election and see what the new incoming Congress and President are like. If things stay the same then there will not be a Federal HFC phase down for quite a while within the United States.

Instead, we will be left with a spattering of States adopting their own HFC phase downs with each one being just a little bit different. If this trend continues I might have to get into consulting…