The Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to prevent the creation of a black market for HFCs in the U.S. by ensuring that its proposed HFC allowance rule doesn’t get watered down by industry opponents, according to a new blog post on the EIA website.
The blog post was written by Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance during the Obama Administration, and Alexander von Bismarck, Executive Director of the EIA in the U.S.
The EPA published a proposed rule that covers HFC allowances and other measures on May 19. The rule, scheduled to be finalized this month, is the EPA’s first step in implementing the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act (AIM), which authorizes the EPA to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs by 85% by 2036.
In the blog, the authors state that they believe the proposed rule is “equal to the task,” with real-time checks on the border, and a ban on disposable containers and QR codes. The rule “would make it much more difficult to cheat, and far easier to find cheaters and hold them to account.”
However – and there’s a big however here – a “handful of companies” (which the EIA does not name) are pushing back against the rule. The opponents are arguing against the increased controls, citing near-term costs.
“Their short-sighted focus on saving a few dollars now would open the floodgates to a black market that could swamp the climate advantages of this can’t-wait regulation,” Giles and von Bismarck wrote.
Comparison to CFCs market
Giles and von Bismarck compare the potential for massive illegal dealings in HFCs to the situation for CFCs back in the 1990s – when the street value of illegal CFCs in the U.S. nearly matched that of cocaine – and encourage the EPA to look to the current HFC smuggling situation in Europe.
They describe a European market where, according to the EIA, the best estimate is that illegal HFC imports already are at 30% of the legal supply. And this is only expected to get worse as tighter control is enforced, they argued, saying that if the U.S. were to follow in the EU footsteps, it would be equivalent to adding at least 12 million cars to U.S. roads.
“EPA has to stick to its guns on the HFC rule,” Giles and von Bismarck wrote. “If the final rule waters down the compliance-forcing provisions to suit the short-term preferences of a few, the U.S. will undoubtedly face the same compliance debacle Europe is confronting now.”
“It will be CFC redux. Runaway climate impacts from the inevitable black market will be impossible to rein in. EPA got it right in the proposed rule. Let’s keep it that way.”
In April, the EIA sent a letter to Michael S. Regan, Administrator of the EPA, petitioning the agency to use new powers granted under the AIM Act in the “most ambitious and effective way” to prohibit the use of HFCs.
“If the final rule waters down the compliance-forcing provisions to suit the short-term preferences of a few, the U.S. will undoubtedly face the same compliance debacle Europe is confronting now.”Alexander von Bismarck, EIA, andCynthia Giles, formerly with the EPA
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