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US Appeal Court HFC ruling suspended to consider case review

Court will decide whether to hear formal petition from Chemours and Honeywell or uphold earlier decision reversing EPA refrigerant policy

A US Federal Appeals Court decision to overturn an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruling branding HFC use for refrigeration as ‘unacceptable’ will be temporarily suspended until judges choose whether to hear formal petitions against the case.

Manufacturers Chemours and Honeywell have both this month formally appealed against the Appeals Court’s ruling in August. The companies argue the court had acted beyond its legal jurisdiction in invalidating the EPA’s stance requiring manufacturers to shift away from HFCs to lower GWP alternatives.

The Appeals Court, responding to requests from refrigerant manufacturers Arkema and Mexichem earlier this year, ruled that the EPA couldn’t require HFC replacement under the terms of the Clean Air Act, because the rules were intended to cover ozone depletion and not global warming. As neither manufacturer has suitable substitutes commercially available, they argued the EPA ruling was unfair to their business.

A further appeal has now been lodged by rival manufacturers calling for a broader review by the court of its original judgement.

A spokesperson for the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) said the decision of the 3-judge panel’s verdict would be held in abeyance until the whole court had decided on how to proceed with the case.

“If it decides to take the case, the abeyance continues. If not, the decision of the 3-judge panel stands,” said a spokesperson for the AHRI.

Although the AHRI is a non-party in the case, the institute had previously notified the EPA that it would welcome the agency to request an ‘en banc’ review of the 3-judge panel’s decision made in August. This would see a broader number of judges reviewing the court decision to revise the EPA ruling.

Honeywell said it a statement that it had filed a petition, along with Chemours, on the day of the appeal deadline to call for a rehearing of the Appeals Court ruling on the EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) programme.

SNAP falls under the US Clean Air Act and is devised to outline acceptable substitutes for ozone-depleting substances based on both human health and environmental considerations.

“The court’s decision ignored the original intent to direct the Environmental Protection Agency to replace ozone depleting substances with the safest alternatives for various uses,” said Honeywell in a statement. “The decision undermines the innovation and private sector investment that American businesses have made to create and transition to safer alternative chemicals.”

Chemours said it believed that the legal basis of the SNAP rule relating to phasing out HFCs was “well-founded”. The company argued therefore that the Appeals Court served to invalidate EPA regulation that was decades old and designed to safely curb reliance on ozone-depleting substances.

“The view that the preservation of this rule is in the best interest of the public, the environment, and US industry is shared by a growing number of states, academia, and businesses,” said Chemours in a statement. “The world will continue to focus on safer and more energy efficient solutions, and Chemours remains committed to continuing to support these market and societal needs.”

Manufacturer Arkema referred RAC Magazine to its original statement in August that welcomed the Appeals Court’s decision concerning the scope of the EPA’s authority under SNAP. It was grateful for the conclusion that the EPA’s powers to regulate refrigerants were limited to effects on ozone depletion and not global warming.

The company maintained at the time that it was “a strong supporter” of efforts to cut HFC emissions such as by developing low GWP refrigerants.

 “We also believe that any effort to require use of lower Global Warning Potential alternatives should be global and should give regulated persons the flexibility to pick the best products for an efficient and safe transition without market disruption” said Arkema. “This path creates a clear framework of an international regulation rather than a patchwork of country or region specific regulations and provides a cap and phasedown for the marketplace.”

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