WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Yesterday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized two rulemakings curbing emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), potent greenhouse gases used in refrigeration, air conditioning and foams, among other uses.
“EIA welcomes this next step in a series of domestic actions to prepare the U.S. market for, and build a solid foundation toward, implementing a global phase down of HFCs,” said EIA’s Climate Campaign Lead, Avipsa Mahapatra. “These rules send a positive signal ahead of next week’s pivotal Montreal Protocol meetings in Kigali where the Parties are poised to reach a global agreement on phase down of HFCs.”
One rule under the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Program expands the list of climate-friendly alternatives available and sets dates for prohibiting some of the highest global warming potential (GWP) HFCs in certain refrigeration and air conditioning uses, including in domestic refrigerators, chillers, cold storage warehouses, and retail food refrigeration. New household refrigerators and freezers purchased by U.S. consumers in 2021 will no longer be permitted to contain HFC-134a, a gas with 1,400 times greater warming potential than CO2. However, the rule excludes a number of other HFCs and HFC-blends with high-GWPs that range from 600 to 1,400, which EIA has repeatedly called on EPA to address.
The second rule strengthens refrigerant management practices under Section 608 of the Clean Air Act and extends these regulations to include HFCs. This includes a prohibition on venting of HFC and HFC-blend refrigerants into the atmosphere during servicing or disposing of equipment at the end of life use. HFCs will also be subject to substantially lower maximum leak rate thresholds under the new Rule. Supermarkets, for instance, which could previously leak up to 35 percent of total refrigerant over the course of a year before being required make repairs, are now subject to a lower 20 percent threshold. The leak rate thresholds for industrial and comfort cooling applications have been lowered as well.
“We are encouraged to see that for the first time HFC refrigerants will be covered under the same rules as ozone depleting substances for refrigerant management practices,” said EIA’s Climate Policy Analyst, Christina Starr. “However, EIA expects that additional SNAP rulemakings will be necessary within the next one to two years to meet anticipated global HFC phase down targets.”
The rules build on two previous SNAP rules finalized last year, and together, yesterday’s rulemakings could mitigate over 14 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent annually, the same as 14.9 billion pounds of coal burned.