Glancing Back: CFCs Go To Washington


Clean Up Your Act

In 1990, an updated version of the Clean Air Act became law. Though passed by Congress the week of Oct. 22, it was yet unsigned by President George Bush when, in the Oct. 29, 1990 issue of The News, Thomas A. Mahoney examined what the passing of the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act would mean for the general public and the hvacr industry.

The bill had major ramifications as far as some refrigerants were concerned. The production of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) was to cease in 2000, and production of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) was to cease by 2030. (The United States had agreed to this phaseout schedule as part of the Montreal Protocol.) Any intentional venting of CFCs would be penalized by 1992, and by that same year, recycling regulations for refrigerants were in effect.

Another section of the law would allow utilities to use a pollution-credit trading system — about two allowances for every 1 million kWh saved.

In 1997, more changes were made to the Clean Air Act, this time in the areas of ground-level ozone (better known as smog) and particulate matter.


Law Of Supply And Demand

According to an article in the Oct. 31, 1994 News, the Environ-mental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Stratospheric Ozone Protection Division, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the U.S. Customs Service, with the help of the Alliance for Respon-sible Atmospheric Policy, put together a group to investigate claims of smuggling CFCs into the United States.

Kevin Fay, alliance executive director, at the press conference to publicize this joint effort, said, “The sale of underpriced, illegal CFCs for use as refrigerants undercuts the U.S. momentum to move to alternatives, and penalizes legitimate companies who are complying with U.S. laws.” Fay stated that the federal excise tax, which by then was over 200% of the cost of producing CFCs, and the rapid phaseout brought about “black market activity reminiscent of the Prohibition Era in the 1920s.”

Steven Seidel of the EPA cautioned purchasers to take care not to buy refrigerant they know to be illegal, such as refrigerant priced under the $4.35/lb tax rate.

George White, a special agent for U.S. Customs in Miami, said that the amount of CFC smuggling through Miami was second only to drugs. At the time, he said that several CFC smuggling cases were pending, but could not comment on the specifics of the cases.

Several methods were used to circumvent the reporting structure. For example, smugglers sometimes brought in material purposely mislabeled as propane or some other gas.

In other cases, importers obtained a legal permit, imported the CFCs, and shipped out the cylinders filled with sand. The importer would then report that the refrigerant had been exported and reuse the paperwork to import more CFCs.

Publication date: 10/29/2001

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