Court Reins in EPA on HFC Regs

Court says HFC refrigerants may not be restricted by EPA over ozone layer concerns.

A United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on August 8 blocked the Environmental Protection Agency's attempt at restricting HFC refrigerants under Section 612 of the Clean Air Act. The EPA's end-around ban of HFCs that have been used as propellants, and in air conditioning and refrigeration applications, which it declared in 2015 was not justified, the court said, because HFC (hydrofluorocarbon) refrigerants do not deplete the ozone layer.

"EPA’s novel reading of Section 612  is inconsistent with  the statute as written. Section 612 does not require (or give EPA authority to require) manufacturers to replace non-ozone-depleting substances such as HFCs," wrote Circuit Judge Kavanaugh. "We therefore vacate the 2015 Rule to the extent it requires manufacturers to replace HFCs, and we remand to EPA for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."

Mexichem Fluor, Inc. and Arkema were petitioners. On the other side of the issue in support of the EPA's restriction — were Chemours Company FC, LLC and Honeywell International, Inc.

There are two definite camps in this fight. Some manufacturers and end-users prefer that HFCs continue to be marketed, since they are proven, familiar and well-established favorites for technicians. Those gasses include R-134a, R-404A and R-407B. Another side would like to see the air conditioning and refrigeration industries move away from HFCs in favor of viable alternatives, to be more in tune with the global phase-down of certain refrigerants.

“This ruling has significant implications for our industry, and we will be monitoring the EPA’s response closely,” said Stephen Yurek, president and CEO, the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI). “Despite the court’s decision, our industry remains committed to ratification and implementation of the Kigali Amendment to globally phase down the use of HFC refrigerants.”

 The decision can be viewed below.

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