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US Supreme Court rejects hearing for HFC phasedown appeal

Senator warns failure to consider reinstating an earlier EPA regulation to restrict HFC use in cooling undermines US climate change adaption measures and risks hurting technology exports

The US Supreme Court has opted against hearing an appeal to reverse a lower court ruling that struck down an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation on phasing out use of HFCs as refrigerant.

Democratic Senator Tom Carper, a senior figure on the country’s Environment and Public Works Committee, has argued that a failure to hear the appeal was a “troubling set back” for US leadership in tackling climate change at an important time for promoting new approaches to cooling.

The comments follow the publication this week of a critical report by the UN-established Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warning that global efforts to tackle carbon emissions were off-track to prevent irreversible environmental damage.

An initial EPA ruling had deemed HFC use as “unacceptable”, but 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.

Mr Carper said the decision to reject hearing an appeal that aims to reinstate the initial EPA view went against calls from industry and environmental groups alike to place some form of limits on use of higher GWP HFC refrigerant.

He noted that the decision enforced an earlier US Court of Appeals decision allowing ongoing use of HFCs for cooling that was authored by Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Mr Kavanaugh was this week was appointed to the Supreme Court for life after a controversial voting process.

Media reports noted that the judge was not believed to be involved in the decision to reject the appeal.

Environmental protection fears

Mr Carper also accused the administration of Donald Trump of being dedicated to dismantling “even the most reasonable and consensus-driven environmental protections”. The same government decided last year to pull out of the Paris Climate Change agreement.

He added that the court’s stance on allowing continued HFC use risked hurting US exporters amidst a wider global push for cleaner approaches to cooling technology that are designed to make use of lower GWP refrigerants.

Mr Carper said, “Despite this news, it further proves the urgent need for congressional action to limit emissions of a substance that has far more powerful warming effects than carbon dioxide.”

“My bipartisan bill with Senator John Kennedy, the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act, does just that by spurring a transition away from HFCs to American–made alternatives.”

Despite the Supreme Court decision, four US states have separately adopted their own legislation requiring the adoption of alternatives to HFCs for purposes such as refrigeration and air conditioning.

Connecticut and Maryland have announced they would be following the states of New York and California to curb HFC use.

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