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Appeal Court decision threatens pace of US low-GWP refrigerant progress

Decision to require EPA to change its ruling on replacing HFCs seen as a potential short-term blow to low-GWP plans

The US Federal Appeals Court has ordered the national Environmental Protection Agency to revise its 2015 ruling, which branded HFCs ‘unacceptable’ for use in various applications and required them to be replaced with lower-GWP alternatives, such as HFOs and natural refrigerants.

The court, responding to an appeal from refrigerant manufacturers Arkema and Mexichem, 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 not global warming. As neither manufacturer has suitable substitutes commercially available, they argued the EPA ruling was unfair to their business.

The Appeal Court decision has been condemned for standing in the way of progress towards a lower-GWP-refrigeration industry, as is being pursued in Europe via the F-Gas regulations. It has also been criticised.by manufacturers of low-GWP HFO alternatives, Chemours and Honeywell, which say they are considering appealing the decision. 

However, the US has signed up to the global phasedown of HFCs, via the Montreal Protocol, so this decision is only believed to affect the short-term application of the refrigerants - effectively giving HFCs such as R134a a longer ‘stay of execution’ than planned.

At the same time, the terms of the Appeal Court ruling is believed to leave the way open for the EPA to continue to pursue the move away from HFCs on the basis of Toxic Substances legislation.

The move, as it stands could also theoretically stall the US’ conversion of vehicles away from R134a - a move required in Europe by the European Mobile Air Conditioning Directive, but not required in the US until 2021-registered vehicles. However global car manufacturers have collectively made the decision to switch to the HFO R1234yf.

In a statement, Chemours expressed ’disappointment’ with the decision and said it ’believes EPA properly used its existing authority under the Clean Air Act and followed the required process to compare the impact of alternatives on human health and the environment before changing the status of high global warming potential (GWP) alternatives to ”unacceptable”’

The manufacturer noted that in the US, CO2 Greenhouse Gas carbon credits remain in place which offer incentives to US automakers to transition to a low-GWP refrigerant. ”Currently, over 50% of the market has transitioned to HFO-1234yf and we expect this transition to continue so that automakers can take advantage of the credits. Chemours supports the continued reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the global frame-work of climate change regulations and incentives already in place. This includes the European Union MAC Directive and F-Gas Regulations… which will continue to drive the need for low-GWP products. The company is currently reviewing the court’s ruling andassessing its options which could include an appeal of this ruling.”


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