Earlier this month Northcutt, a company specializing in refrigerated trailers, was fined $100,000 by the Environmental Protection Agency. It was found that Northcutt was promoting and actively selling alternative refrigerants to the standard R-404A used in refrigerated cargo. While there is nothing wrong with alternative refrigerants it should be noted that by law the Environmental Protection Agency has to approve any and all alternative refrigerants for us before they can be distributed and sold in the country.
Northcutt was selling unapproved hydrocarbon refrigerants to it’s customers. Hydrocarbon refrigerants are notoriously more flammable than their HydroFluroCarbons counterparts. (Hydrocarbons can contain propane or isobutene.) According to the EPA these hydrocarbon refrigerants have the risk of creating a potential fire or explosion and as such provide a serious risk to human health and the environment.
Under the agreement with the EPA Northcutt will pay the $100,000 fine but will not admit that they broke the law by selling the alternative hydrocarbon refrigerants. Northcutt’s owner, Bill Johnston, stated that, “Northcutt believes that its domestic refrigerant products are not subject to the EPA’s SNAP regulations.” The EPA states that Northcutt’s alternative refrigerants ARE subject to SNAP regulations.
Customers who bought a unit with the alternative refrigerant will be receiving a letter from Northcutt stating the EPA’s decision and Northcutt’s decision on the alternative refrigerants. If you are interested in reading the legal document it can be found on the Justice Department’s website.
I’ve seen a few fines over the past year or so and each time the company involved has to pay at or over $100,000 to the Federal Government all because they used an unapproved refrigerant. Do yourself and your company a favor and check with the EPA beforehand if you are considering using an alternative refrigerant in your industry. It is not worth the risk to just wing it and see what happens.
The best part of this whole article? As of today, January 21st, 2016, Northcutt is still actively selling their alternative refrigerants on their website. The list includes alternatives to R-12, R-22, and -502A. Their alternatives are HC-12a, HC-22a, and HC-502a. You can visit their alternative webpage by clicking here. I’m genuinely curious to see what happens here in the next few months. Will these refrigerants still be up for sale, or will the EPA win and they will be taken down?