EPA proposal would relax HFC refrigerant restrictions

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced that it plans to roll back restrictions on the use of HFC replacement refrigerants that took effect in 2016.

Issued Sept. 18, the proposed rule, Protection of Stratospheric Ozone: Revisions to the Refrigerant Management Program’s Extension to Substitutes, will revisit the Agency’s recent approach to regulating appliances containing substitute refrigerants such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by proposing to rescind the November 18, 2016 extension of the leak repair provisions to appliances using substitute refrigerants.

There was a public comment period in mid-October for the new regulation, which would also rescind other provisions that were extended to substitute refrigerants. This proposal would not affect the requirements for ozone-depleting refrigerants, the agency maintains.

If finalized as proposed, the new rule would rescind the leak repair and maintenance requirements at 40 CFR 82.157 for substitute refrigerants. Therefore, appliances with 50 or more pounds of substitute refrigerants would not be subject to the following requirements:

  • conduct leak rate calculations when a refrigerant is added to an appliance,
  • repair an appliance that leaks above a threshold leak rate,
  • conduct verification tests on repairs,
  • conduct periodic leak inspections on appliances that exceed the threshold leak rate,
  • report to EPA on chronically leaking appliances,
  • retrofit or retire appliances that are not repaired, and
  • maintain related records.

The EPA is also requesting comment on rescinding other provisions that were extended to substitute refrigerants, including things like certification of those purchasing or installing refrigerants, disposal and reclamation requirements, etc.

The use of HFCs were restricted because they are an ozone depleting substance. The EPA says the rule would save industry about $39 million annually in regulatory costs. But the rule also would have the climate impact of an additional 642,000 cars on the road. HFCs have a warming potential thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide, reported Greg Zimmerman, executive editor of Building Operating Management magazine (www.facilitiesnet.com).

“This is climate vandalism,” said David Doniger, director of the climate and clean air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council in the Washington Post. “(The Donald Trump administration) is just going through all these things that (former president Barack) Obama did and trying to destroy them all.”

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