Senators Introduce Bill to Speed Phaseouts of Refrigerants

Feb. 20, 2018
Under this legislation, whatever the EPA says, goes. Bill is framed as a way to protect jobs.

Feb. 19, 2018 WASHINGTON, D.C. – Not content with last year's appeals court ruling reigning in the EPA's power, U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA), John Kennedy (R-LA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Coons (D-DE), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act, bipartisan legislation that would support the worldwide transition towards next generation coolants pioneered by what were described as "innovative companies in Louisiana and other states."

There are two plants in Louisiana—Honeywell in Geismar and Mexichem Fluor Inc. in St. Gabriel—impacted by the evolving technology. Legislators interested in furthering the EPA's power say this legislation will preserve jobs at these Louisiana plants and others across the country.

At issue are hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are used as coolants in refrigerators and air conditioners. The hydrofluorocarbon industry employs nearly 600,000 workers in the U.S. and generates annual sales of $206 billion. Because of changing global policy, countries are moving away from using hydrofluorocarbons. This legislation will allow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure a smooth phasedown of hydrofluorocarbons in the U.S., boosting the manufacturers producing next generation technologies.

Last August a three-judge panel in the Appeals Court decided 2-1 that the EPA cannot require companies to replace HFCs in current or future HVACR equipment or other applications with low-GWP alternatives under the SNAP (Significant New Alternatives Policy) program.

“American manufacturers are leading the way in using new technologies to develop environmentally-friendly substitutes for hydrofluorocarbons,” said Dr. Cassidy. “This legislation helps workers in Louisiana and creates jobs here at home.”

“On the surface, this bill seems more complicated than high school chemistry, but really it’s pretty simple. It’s about jobs. And it’s about protecting the investment by Louisiana companies in new technologies and protecting Louisiana jobs,” said Sen. Kennedy. “This bill gives a $206 billion U.S. industry the clarity it needs to invest, transition and protect American jobs. It’s not often that Democrats, Republicans, industry and environmental groups come together to agree on anything, but we are all in agreement on this one.”

The legislation is supported by both manufacturers and environmental groups:

“Investments in manufacturing of the next-generation solutions have resulted in hundreds of long-term, sustainable jobs in Louisiana, as well as thousands of manufacturing jobs during the construction of these large-scale manufacturing plants,” said Greg Bowser, President of the Louisiana Chemical Association. “I encourage leadership to take action on the phasedown of HFCs by passing the AIM Act, and support continued innovation in this growth sector.”

“We commend Sen. Kennedy and Sen. Cassidy for their leadership in introducing the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act,” said Rajeev Gautam, President and CEO of Honeywell Performance Materials and Technologies. “Honeywell strongly supports HFC phasedown as an essential initiative for American competitiveness.  Decisive action at the federal level is critical to supporting economic growth and job creation at home and the success of exporting U.S. innovation abroad.”

Strangely enough, Mexichem Fluor, Inc., one of the litigants against the EPA in the original appeal, has approved the introduction of the bill.

“Mexichem Fluor, Inc. supports the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act, which provides for EPA to adopt a hydrofluorocarbon phasedown in accordance with the schedule in the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer,” said sources for Mexichem Flour, Inc. “This bill will help achieve the important and sustainable objectives of this international environmental agreement.”

“Because other nations are already forging ahead on the HFC phase-down, it is important for the United States to maintain its leadership in the development of climate-friendlier alternatives and for American industry to seize the global economic opportunity in the market for alternative chemicals and products,” said David Doniger, Senior Strategic Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Your bill is a critical step in that direction.”