Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized two rules that will reduce the projected growth and emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a class of chemicals commonly used in refrigeration and air conditioning that are potent greenhouse gases and can be hundreds to thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide. These rules are the latest in a series of actions demonstrating continued commitment by the United States to reduce emissions of climate-damaging HFCs at home, while working with other countries to amend the Montreal Protocol to address HFCs globally.
"These two rules demonstrate the United States' continued leadership in protecting public health and the environment," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. "We are reducing emissions of HFCs that are harmful to the climate system and showing the world that we can do this responsibly and thoughtfully by working with businesses and environmental groups. I'm especially excited that we have taken these actions ahead of next month's Montreal Protocol negotiations."
Under Section 612 of the Clean Air Act, EPA's Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program is adding to the list of safer and more climate-friendly chemicals for use in the refrigeration and air conditioning and fire suppression sectors; listing several new substitutes as unacceptable in specific end-uses in the refrigeration and air conditioning sector; and changing the status of a number of substitutes that were previously listed as acceptable in the refrigeration and air conditioning and foam blowing sectors. Foam products that contain unacceptable foam blowing agents are also listed as unacceptable.
In each instance where EPA is listing a substitute as unacceptable or changing the status of a substitute from acceptable to unacceptable, EPA has determined that there are other alternatives that pose lower risk overall to human health, the environment, or both. This rule results in environmental benefits from avoided HFC emissions of up to 7 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent (MMTCO2eq) in 2025, equal to the greenhouse gas emissions from 1.5 million cars in one year.
In today's second action, EPA is strengthening the refrigerant management program under Section 608 of the Clean Air Act and extending the regulations to non-ozone depleting substitutes such as HFCs and other substitutes. This action will lead to reductions in emissions by lowering the leak rate at which large air conditioning and refrigeration appliances must be repaired and incorporating industry best practices such as verifying repairs and conducting regular leak inspections on leaking appliances. In addition to the benefits for the ozone layer, EPA estimates the refrigerant emissions avoided from this rule will be more than 7 MMTCO2eq annually.
These two rules address emissions of HFCs, which are the focus of ongoing international negotiations of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, which is a globally ratified treaty that is phasing out the production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances. HFCs are commonly used as replacements for ozone-depleting substances, and last year countries stated their intent to "work within the Montreal Protocol to an HFC amendment in 2016." Countries will convene from October 10-14 in Kigali, Rwanda, at the 2016 Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol for the final negotiating session of the year to agree to an HFC phasedown amendment.
In developing and finalizing these two rules, EPA met with industry, environmental groups, and other interested stakeholders and considered more than 150 comments on both proposals.
More information on today's actions:
For the SNAP rule: https://www.epa.gov/snap/snap-regulations
For the Section 608 rule: https://www.epa.gov/section608/revised-section-608-refrigerant-management-regulations