Management Can Help Keep EPA At Bay

February 24, 2004
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Governments throughout the world have issued new laws and regulations concerning refrigerant emissions. Persons responsible for HVACR and/or environmental concerns in their company or organization need to take strong, immediate action to ensure that emissions are in compliance with the regulations in their area.

In the United States, civil penalties include up to $27,500 per day of fines for violations. Criminal penalties include up to five years of federal imprisonment for knowing or willful violations and two years of imprisonment for submission of false records.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) routinely conducts both announced and unannounced inspections to verify compliance with requirements. In addition, a reward of up to $10,000 is paid to individuals reporting violations that result in successful court cases and/or convictions under the Citizen Award Program.

It is important for all organizations using refrigerants to implement an ongoing refrigerant management and regulations compliance program to minimize emissions and reduce the risk of violations from noncompliance.

The "best practices" checklist that follows was developed using information gathered from working with organizations throughout the United States and Canada in the development and implementation of effective refrigerant management and regulation compliance programs. It contains EPA regulatory requirements, as well as our industry best practices recommendations. The best practices recommendations are included to show what other organizations are doing to implement the framework, procedures, processes, and information needed to minimize harmful refrigerant emissions, and to ensure that the "must do" requirements of compliance are met.

Could your organization pass an EPA Title VI refrigerant regulation inspection? EPA now requires all owners/operators of air conditioning and refrigeration equipment to ensure that specific service practices are followed on all refrigerant usages and any refrigerant service work performed. Contractors are subject to specific recordkeeping and service practice requirements.

The Checklist

1. Do you have copies of - and an understanding of - the Clean Air Act Title VI Amendments of 1990 and EPA regulations and requirements applying to refrigerants used in your organization?

2. Do you have copies of - and an understanding of - the penalties and enforcement actions EPA can impose on your organization for noncompliance?

3. Does your organization have a "mission statement" for EPA refrigerant regulations compliance, specifically documenting your intent to comply with all requirements and to minimize harmful refrigerant emissions?

4. Does your organization have a formal job description for a facility refrigerant manager who is responsible for refrigerant management and compliance to regulations? (EPA will want to speak to this person during a refrigerant compliance inspection.)

5. Has your organization developed and implemented a refrigerant management and regulations compliance plan? If so, does it include standard procedures to evaluate and verify compliance, and is it updated regularly to ensure applicability?

6. Has your designated refrigerant manager been formally trained in EPA refrigerant regulations compliance management and refrigerant emission control to ensure effective and complete implementation of your refrigerant management program?

7. Has your designated refrigerant manager been given the financial resources and authority to implement your organization's refrigerant management program?

8. Has your organization conducted a detailed inventory of equipment and refrigerants including manufacturer, model, serial number, year installed, capacity in tons, charge size, leak rates (based on records of recharging or topping off), refrigerant type (CFC, HCFC, HFC), and location?

9. Does your organization handle environmentally harmful refrigerants as a controlled substance as recommended by the EPA (Applicability Determination C9670013)? Do you track and control refrigerants and minimize emissions from acquisitions through final disposal?

10. Does your organization have a policy for EPA-required refrigerant record keeping, including a defined and uniform method of collecting, maintaining, and making them available to EPA inspectors upon request?

11. Does your organization have copies of EPA certifications for all in-house and contractor-technicians working at your facility to ensure they are properly certified and to present to the EPA upon request?

12. Does your organization have a policy and defined procedures for rapid internal response to material refrigerant emissions (venting, leaks) of your refrigerant equipment and refrigerant inventory?

13. Does your organization have a refrigerant purchase policy and a designated certified technician or contractor responsible for all purchases?

14. Does your organization have an appliance service policy including EPA compliance requirements and specific refrigerant handling procedures to reduce refrigerant emissions?

15. Does your organization have a labeling policy for refrigerant cylinders and appliances using refrigerants per EPA and Department of Transportation (DOT) requirements?

16. Does your organization have a refrigerant inventory and storage policy incorporating national and state regulations and building codes?

17. Does your organization have leak testing processes and defined service procedures for positive pressure appliances to ensure EPA compliance and minimize emissions?

18. Does your organization have leak testing processes and defined service procedures for low-pressure appliances to ensure EPA compliance and minimize emissions?

19. Does your organization have a policy and defined procedures for disposal of refrigerant appliances, equipment, oils, and parts to ensure EPA compliance and minimize emissions?

20. Does your organization have a policy and defined procedures for shipping and/or transportation of refrigerants, both into and out of your facility to ensure compliance with EPA and DOT requirements?

21. Does your organization have a refrigerant inventory management policy and defined procedures for disbursements, transfers, usage reporting, and scheduled audits?

22. Does your organization have a refrigerant handling safety policy including defined procedures? Are Material Safety Data Sheets for all refrigerants used available to your employees? Do you have sufficient refrigerant safety equipment including personal protection equipment and leak monitors?

23. Does your organization have a refrigerant emergency response plan for your organization for major venting incidents, maximum exposure levels, and evacuation procedures?

24. Does an organization with HVACR equipment have EPA refrigerant compliance and emission reduction requirements language included in service and maintenance agreements to ensure a contractor is not exposing that organization to any liability?

25. Does your organization provide all affected personnel with refrigerant management policies and procedures manuals to ensure their adherence to the refrigerant management program?

26. Has your organization's refrigerant management and compliance program been effectively communicated to all affected personnel through documented training sessions?

27. Do your affected personnel have copies of all updates and amendments to Title VI regulations and requirements issued by EPA since 1993?

28. Has your organization established an ongoing process and infrastructure to collect, distribute, and communicate updates and amendments issued by EPA?

29. Does your organization conduct ongoing refrigerant regulations compliance training for affected personnel?

30. Do you have a policy for conducting annual internal refrigerant compliance gap analysis surveys to ensure your organization is in compliance with all EPA requirements and minimizing refrigerant emissions?

Summary

If you answered "no" to any of these questions, you may have a gap in your organization's current program that might increase risk exposure. The good news is that you have taken the first step toward improving it by identifying any deficiencies as compared to the best practices of your peers. Now you have a specific path or goal to improve your program.

The industry's best practices recommendations are provided to help you enhance and strengthen your existing refrigerant management program. It is important that responsible individuals conduct research and learn about any specific regulations.

Ehrlich is vice president for the Compliance Service Division of ESS. He may be reached at steve_ehrlich@environ.com or www.environ.com.

Publication date: 03/01/2004

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