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More US states expected to follow California’s lead on HFC restrictions

AHRI has said that with national policy on refrigerant use locked up in a legal dispute, discussions around the use of HFCs has now switched to state level

A number of US states are expected to follow California’s example in adopting portions of the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) into law to prohibit use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) for refrigeration.

Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) vice president Francis Dietz has said that it was likely a number of states that make up the US Climate Alliance may mirror California’s decision to restrict HFC use as national policy continues to face legal challenges.

Mr Dietz said that the possibility of state by state adoption would create a patchwork of regulations across the US to try and curb HFC reliance in favour of lower GWP products. This commitment to encourage the replacement of ozone-depleting substances by prohibiting use of certain refrigerants is line with an EPA ruling from 2015 that is presently being appealed at the Supreme Court.

The initial EPA ruling, which deemed HFC as “unacceptable”, was ordered to be revised last year by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals after it came out in favour of a motion raised by refrigerant manufacturers Arkema and Mexichem. The court argued that the agency did not have the authority to rule on HFC use in this case.

Having been overturned by three judges from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals as part of an en banc review, an effort to reinstate the original EPA ruling is currently being considered by the Supreme Court at the behest of manufacturer Honeywell. This has created some uncertainty over US commitments to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

The state of California late last month therefore announced its intention to adopt new regulations prohibiting HFCs from being used by refrigeration equipment and foam manufacturers in new appliances.

Details of the new policy have been set out by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which decides state-wide policy for tackling air pollution.

Mr Dietz said that California’s example had seen debate around HFC use in the US shifting from a national to state level conversation. It reflects a significant change to California’s previous policy towards HFCs.

He said, “California did not have any state specific HFC regulations in place for commercial refrigeration. This policy change, and future changes are a result of a state-wide legislative mandate to reduce HFC use by 40 per cent by 2030.”

“California’s original plan was to rely on Kigali, EPA SNAP rules, and state specific regulations.”

Mr Dietz said that ongoing court battles over the EPA’s authority to rule on suitable replacements for HFCs under Section 612 of the Clean Air Act had resulted in California taking its latest action to bring climate targets in line with SNAP rules. This approach would also require a fresh legal challenge for anyone seeking to oppose the state’s position on HFCs.

He said, “The DC Circuit Court decision [to overturn the EPA HFC ruling] does not affect California’s ability to adopt these rules and any future challenge to the California rules would have to come from a separate lawsuit.”

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