The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on October 8 granted multiple petitions from HVAC&R industry stakeholders pertaining to how it will regulate HFCs under the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act, indicating that the agency intends to address the petition requests in a future rulemaking.

However, granting a petition does not mean the EPA will propose or finalize requirements identical to those requested in the petition.

One of the petitions, submitted jointly by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Green America, the Natural Resources Defense Council  and ATMOsphere (formerly shecco), publisher of this website, calls on the EPA to replicate aggressive HFC regulations finalized last December for California by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The regulations have led to an upsurge in the adoption of natural refrigerant-based commercial refrigeration systems in the state, including transcritical CO2 (R744) and microdistributed propane (R290) display cases.

Other petitions that the EPA granted came from the NRDC, the International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration (IIAR), the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute  (AHRI) and the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), among others. A petition from CARB was partially granted and remains under review. CARB and IIAR also urged the EPA to adopt the CARB regulatory model.

“We are joined by states, industry, and other environmental groups in calling for the strongest feasible limits on HFCs in new cooling products,” said Christina Starr, Senior Policy Analyst with Washington, D.C.-based EIA, in a blog post. “Some industry stakeholders hope for more lax standards that leave the door open to a wider range of new HFC chemicals than needed, but California has truly set the bar for our federal government to meet.”

EPA’s review and response to the petitions follows a process prescribed under the AIM Act, which gives EPA up to two years to propose and finalize a technology-transition rulemaking. In a letter to EIA granting its petition, Administrator Michael Regan said, “The EPA intends to move swiftly to develop a proposal and will continue to engage with stakeholders as we proceed.”

Upcoming rules

On September 23, the EPA announced the first of three final rules pursuant to the AIM Act. The rule establishes an allowance, allocation and trading program for HFCs

The next two rules will address maximizing reclamation and minimizing releases from equipment, and facilitating the transition to next-generation technologies through sector-based restrictions. The latter rule, in particular, is the one targeted by the petitions.

“As with its recently finalized allowance rulemaking, EPA must continue to demonstrate climate ambition and urgency said Avipsa Mahapatra, EIA’s Climate Campaign Lead.“These technology transition rulemakings, which will truly shape the future of the cooling industry, not just here in the United States but around the world, must send a clear signal that the cooling industry can no longer rely on unnecessary highly planet-warming gases.” 

The CARB-level regulations include a 150 GWP limit for most new commercial and industrial refrigeration applications, including supermarkets and ice rinks, and a 750 GWP limit for air conditioning.

The EIA also urges the EPA to immediately restore the restrictions on the use of various HFCs that were finalized under the EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Program in 2015 and 2016 by SNAP Rules 20 & 21.

“The EPA intends to move swiftly to develop a proposal and will continue to engage with stakeholders as we proceed.”

Michael Regan, EPA Administrator

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