EPA’s HFC Phasedown Sent Back to Court of Appeals

From: Paul Westbrook, Director of Sales and Marketing
To: HTPG, Russell, Witt, Kramer and ColdZone sales and customers
Date: 9/26/2017

On Friday, September 22, 2017, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Honeywell International, Inc. and Chemours Company, FC, LLC intervened for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and filed an appeal against a recent court decision that overturned the EPA’s authority to ban hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) under the Clean Air Act. The appeal requests that all 10 judges in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rehear the case that was overturned by a three-judge panel last month.

The EPA defendants stated that the original three-judge panel relied on overly restrictive definitions when it overturned the HFC rule, and the EPA should be entitled to more leeway in interpreting the Clean Air Act. Furthermore, the appeal also questioned whether: The panel had jurisdiction to invalidate an EPA Clean Air Act Section 307(b) rule established in 1994 decades after the 60-day deadline; and if the Clean Air Act Section 612 empowers the EPA to prohibit product manufacturers from using potent greenhouse gases called hydrofluorocarbons as replacements for ozone-depleting substances. A link to the appeal document is at the end of this notice.

The August 8, 2017 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit cited that the EPA does not have the authority to require manufacturers to replace non-ozone-depleting substances, such as HFC refrigerants for HVACR equipment, with low Global Warming Potential (GWP) alternatives. Section 612 of the Clean Air Act requires manufacturers to replace ozone-depleting substances with safe substitutes.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled 2-1 in favor of the plaintiffs in the case of Mexichem Fluor Inc. vs. the EPA. The court stated the EPA cannot ban HFCs under Section 612 of the Clean Air Act because that provision was designed only to address ozone-depleting substances. “The fundamental problem for the EPA is that HFCs are not ozone-depleting substances. Because HFCs are not ozone-depleting substances, Section 612 would not seem to grant EPA authority to require replacement of HFCs,” the court ruled. A link to the official ruling is at the end of this notice.

The ruling struck down an executive order that was part of President Barack Obama’s 2013 Climate Action Plan, which had indicated the EPA would use its authority through the Significant New Alternatives Policy Program (SNAP) program of Section 612 to reduce HFC emissions.

In 2015, the EPA issued a rule that restricted manufacturers from making certain products that contain HFCs. SNAP Rules 20 and 21 (document links at the end of this notice) listed various HFCs and HFC-containing blends that were previously listed as acceptable alternatives that are now listed as unacceptable in various end-uses. In the refrigeration and air conditioning industry, common refrigerants such as R404A, R507A, R-407A, R-407B, R-407C and R-407F are now listed as unacceptable with end dates ranging from July 20, 2016 to January 1, 2020 for certain applications. Lower GWP acceptable alternative refrigerants are to be used instead. The court’s August 2017 ruling halted this phasedown. Now we wait to see if they will rehear the case.

Heat Transfer Products Group is moving forward with designing products that can be used with multiple refrigerants, including low GWP alternatives. It is our recommendation that our customers continue working towards compliance with the SNAP 20 and 21 regulations. Please note that the compliance date is defined as the date the refrigeration system is commissioned (complete and functioning) not the manufacture or installation date.

The final court ruling may push back the phasedown, but we don’t believe it will abolish the regulations. Our industry as a whole is working to reduce HFC refrigerants, which are classified as greenhouse gases. In the Aug. 8, 2107 ACHR NEWS article, “Appeals Court Halts on EPA’s HFC Phasedown,” President and CEO of the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute stated, “Despite the court’s decision, our industry remains committed to ratification and implementation of the Kigali Amendment to globally phase down the use of HFC refrigerants.“ Heat Transfer Products Group concurs.

We’ll keep you informed of updates to this court case and the potential impact to your business. If you have questions, please contact your local Russell, Witt, Kramer or ColdZone brand sales representative. To find your local sales representative, please use our online tool, https://www.htpg.com/sales-representatives.

NRDC SNAP Petition for Rehearing 2017-09-22

EPA SNAP Rule 20 Document

EPA SNAP Rule 21 Document

Official Court Ruling - U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit - Mexichem Fluor Inc. vs. the EPA