EPA Proposes to Prohibit Some Uses Of HFCs With High Global Warming Potential

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By Patrick Ambrosio  

July 10 — The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to limit the use of various hydrofluorocarbons that are currently listed as acceptable alternatives to ozone-depleting substances, an action taken under President Barack Obama's climate action plan.

The agency said the proposed rule, signed by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy July 9 and released the next day, would prohibit certain uses of chemicals that have high global warming potential. The proposed rule would change the status of several HFCs and HFC-containing blends that are currently listed as acceptable alternatives under the agency's significant new alternatives policy (SNAP) program, which identifies alternatives to ozone-depleting substances that pose less overall risk to human health and the environment.

HFCs are typically short-lived but highly potent greenhouse gases. The proposal would change the listing status of several HFCs, including HFC-125 and HFC-134a, and refrigerant blends containing HFCs for which the EPA identified substitutes that pose lower overall risk to human health and the environment.

McCarthy said in a July 10 statement the proposal rule would result in significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions and would encourage companies to bring environmentally friendly alternatives to market.

The proposed rule would achieve emissions reductions between 31 million and 42 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2020, according to the EPA. The agency said in a statement that the proposal could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from the annual electricity use of more than 5 million homes.

David Doniger, director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a July 10 statement that the EPA proposal is a “crucial step” in addressing climate change.

Motor Vehicle, Retail Uses

The agency's proposal would limit the use of HFCs and HFC blends in aerosol propellants, motor vehicle air conditioning systems for new vehicles, retail food refrigeration equipment, vending machines and foam blowing end-uses.

The proposed rule would list HFC-134a, the most abundant HFC, as unacceptable for use in motor vehicle air conditioning systems in new light-duty vehicles beginning in model year 2021 and unacceptable for use in new, standalone retail food refrigeration equipment and new vending machines as of Jan. 1, 2016.

HFC-134a, which has a global warming potential of 1,430, would be prohibited in consumer aerosols under the proposal rule but would continue to be acceptable for use in specific types of technical and medical aerosol products, such as metered dose inhalers. Global warming potential is a measure of the total energy that a gas absorbs over a particular period of time compared with carbon dioxide over that same period of time.

The EPA also is proposing to no longer allow the use of HFC-125 in aerosol propellants and to disallow the use of various refrigerant blends in motor vehicle air conditioning systems. The agency said the proposed reclassification rule complements a June proposal to approve the use of HFC-32, ethane, isobutane, propane and R-441A as acceptable alternatives to HFCs under the SNAP program.

The agency will open a 60-day public comment period on the proposed rule once the rule is published in the Federal Register.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Ambrosio in Washington at pambrosio@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

A prepublication version of the proposed rule on changing the listing status for HFCs under the SNAP program is available at http://www.epa.gov/ozone/downloads/SAN_5750_SNAP_Status_Change_Rule_NPRM_signature_version-signed_7-9-2014.pdf.

An EPA fact sheet on the proposal is available at http://www.epa.gov/ozone/downloads/SAN_5750_SNAP_Status_Change_Rule-Fact_Sheet_070714.pdf.

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