WASHINGTON — Under an agreement announced today, the Environmental Protection Agency agreed to a timeline for implementing a congressional mandate to issue federal standards limiting hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) leaks , extremely potent chemicals that warm the climate and are used in industrial and commercial refrigeration equipment.
The NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) and a coalition of states and cities have reached an agreement with the EPA. The agency said it plans to publish a proposal on HFC leakage and promote the recovery (recycling and reuse) of HFCs by summer 2023 and finalize its proposal a year later.
“This agreement marks another crucial step leading the country, and the world, beyond these powerful drivers of the global climate crisis,” said Alex Hillbrand, HFC expert in the Climate and Clean Energy and International programs at the NRDC. “Pound for pound, these chemicals trap several thousand times more heat than carbon dioxide. With strict rules, the EPA could drastically reduce HFC leaks and waste, which, without such action, will equal the annual climate pollution of some 21 million cars this decade.
The deal, reached amid an ongoing legal challenge to a Trump-era regulatory rollback, sets a timeline for implementing the law’s HFC leak reduction and clawback provisions. on Innovation and Manufacturing, signed into law with broad bipartisan support in December 2020 to phase down HFCs and replace them with more climate-friendly alternatives.
The agreement is reflected in a joint motion asking the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit to stay an ongoing case brought by the NRDC and state and local governments challenging the Trump administration’s cancellation. previous HFC regulations issued under the Clean Air Act.
Under the new regulations, the EPA will re-evaluate this rollback and consider more extensive leak prevention and refrigerant recovery measures as directed by the AIM Act. The parties asked the Court to hold this matter pending pending the EPA rulemaking process. The Court is expected to decide soon whether or not to approve the request.
The case, now called NRDC vs. Regan, was originally filed against the previous EPA administrator in May 2020. The petitioners are NRDC, New York, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, the District of Columbia and New York. Two industry associations, the Air Permitting Forum and the Auto Industry Forum, have stepped in to defend Trump-era rollbacks.
The AIM law reduces the production and import of HFCs by 85% over the next 15 years. It also calls on the EPA to take additional steps to reduce HFC emissions, including the leak prevention and recovery provisions at issue here, as well as banning applications when safer alternatives exist.
Implementing the AIM Act supply phase-down will prevent HFC emissions equivalent to 4.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide through mid-century, or nearly three years of emissions from the U.S. electric sector in 2019. It is also expected to create 33,000 jobs and spur $12.5 billion in new investment. in the US economy, according to a study by the University of Maryland.
The AIM Act has been championed by dozens of senators and representatives from both parties and backed by a coalition ranging from the NRDC to the US Chamber of Commerce. The EPA has already issued initial phase-down regulations and granted ten petitions to replace HFCs in specific end uses. These leakage reduction and recovery rules will strengthen the implementation of the AIM Act.
The NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international non-profit environmental organization with over 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health and the environment. The NRDC has offices in New York, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.