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EPA proposes expansion of alternative refrigerants

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to expand the list of acceptable substitutes and prohibit the use of certain chemicals in the U.S

The announcement is seen as another step forward in a series under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which aims to reduce emissions of HFCs.

“This new proposal would reduce the use and emissions of some of the most harmful HFCs, which are thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide, and approves safer, more climate-friendly alternatives to protect public health and our environment,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

“In support of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, this action will not only result in significant reductions of harmful greenhouse gases, but it expands the options for safer alternatives available on the market.”

EPA is both proposing to expand the agency’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Program list of climate-friendly alternatives and, now that safer options are available, proposing to change the status of certain higher-global warming potential (GWP) substances that were previously listed as acceptable. In developing this proposal, the agency received input from industry, environmental groups and others through workshops and meetings over the past year.

EPA’s actions under the SNAP Program have been instrumental in the U.S. meeting its obligations under the Montreal Protocol, a global treaty through which all countries have agreed to reduce the use of chemicals that harm the Earth’s atmosphere.

EPA’s proposal includes:

  • listing as acceptable, subject to conditions to ensure safe use, propane and HFO-1234yf in specific end-uses in the refrigeration and air conditioning sector, and a new fire suppression agent for streaming and total flooding uses on aircraft;
  • listing as unacceptable certain flammable hydrocarbon (HC) refrigerants and HC blends for retrofitting existing residential central air conditioning equipment that was designed for non-flammable refrigerants;
  • listing as unacceptable propylene and the HC blend R-443A in specific end-uses in the refrigeration and air conditioning sector; and
  • modifying the listing status for certain high-GWP alternatives for certain end-uses in refrigeration and air conditioning (e.g., chillers and household refrigerators), foam blowing, and fire suppression and explosion protection sectors, and for methylene chloride for certain end-uses in the foam blowing sector.

Under the authority of the Clean Air Act, EPA’s SNAP Program evaluates chemicals and technologies on an ongoing basis within a comparative risk framework.

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