WASHINGTON — The Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy has cautioned industry to be certain that chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) and hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerant purchases are legal, and to refuse to buy illegally imported refrigerants. The warning comes as reports are beginning to surface that illegal HCFC imports may be on the rise, while illegal CFC imports are waning.

“The U.S. government has done an excellent job of finding 119 defendants guilty of illegally importing CFCs, and they are ready to prosecute and fine anyone devising schemes to illegally import HCFCs,” stated Dave Stirpe, executive director of the Alliance.

CFC refrigerants are becoming more scarce due to their 1996 production phaseout under U.S. law and international treaty. Legally stockpiled, recycled, or reclaimed CFC refrigerants may be used to service existing equipment.

HCFCs are used in new residential and commercial air conditioning and refrigeration units and to service existing equipment. A production phaseout will occur over a period from 2003 to 2030 in developed countries, and by 2040 in developing countries. HCFCs are up to 98 percent less ozone depleting than CFCs, but production and import of virgin and used compounds are strictly controlled by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation.

"Purchasers of illegal refrigerant are at risk. The government may confiscate any illegally imported refrigerant, even if it has been passed down through the marketplace, and prosecute purchasers who knowingly buy illegal material," Stirpe said.

He noted that purchasers of new HCFCs should verify that an importer is authorized to import HCFCs. Such importers would be listed as having a baseline consumption allowance in the EPA HCFC Allocation Rule (January 21, 2003; 68 FR 2819), or involved in a subsequent legal trade of consumption allowances. The recipient of a trade can show a letter from EPA acknowledging the approval of the trade. Purchasers who question the legitimacy of an HCFC importer should request a copy of the EPA approval letter from the seller. Persons involved in the illegal trade of HCFCs are subject to fine and HCFC confiscation.

Importers of used HCFCs must obtain prior written approval from EPA and the government representing the country of origin. The provisions for the "petition" approval are also listed in the EPA rule.

In order to report any violations regarding illegal imports, call the EPA at 800-296-1996 or Customs at 800-232-5378.

Publication date: 08/18/2003