The formal inauguration of a new President on Jan. 20, 2009, is expected to result in stronger support in the United States for the Kyoto Protocol. The formal seating of a new Congress Jan. 3 may jump start national legislation, particularly the Warner-Lieberman bill. The end of the Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s holiday period, combined with a clearer picture on economic issues, is expected to result in more attention to regional and local initiatives.
Among the most significant of the regional efforts, according to Paul Hepperla, director of Engineering Services for Verisae (a provider of refrigerant management services), are the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), and the Midwest Accord.
These latest legislations are adding to an already complex and ever-changing regulatory landscape. “Significant efforts are underway to better understand environmental liability,” said Hepperla.
Recording and reporting requirements are among the direct impacts of the regulatory nature of HVACR. “Technicians must keep copies of their certification cards at their place of business. And they must provide service records to their customers noting the date and type of service, as well as the amount of refrigerant added to the system,” said John Thurman of Advanced Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning of Orlando, Fla.
He added that “leak repair is the responsibility of the equipment owner-operator, not the technician,” although those owners usually expect the technician to take care of such matters as part of any service agreement.
KYOTOThe Montreal Protocol of the mid-1980s was the emotional driver of the phaseout of CFCs and HCFCs, to require technician certification, and to institute no-venting rules in efforts to address ozone-depletion concerns.
The Kyoto Protocol of the mid-1990s pushed the envelope further by dealing with greenhouse gas emissions from a wide range of sources, including HVACR. Initially, the United States did not endorse Kyoto (which calls for specific targeted reductions in greenhouse gas emissions), but both major party presidential candidates indicated stronger support for the protocol.
In the mix are HFC refrigerants because of global-warming issues. “Currently, regulatory agencies are stepping up enforcement against HCFC violations,” said Rusty Walker of Hill-Phoenix, to attendees at a Food Marketing Institute conference in September.
“But most likely there will also be increasing HFC restrictions to an extent yet to be determined.” Yet to be determined, he said, is “the overall impact on new refrigerants developed and announced by major manufacturers.”
One factor pushing Kyoto in the United States in recent years comes from California. Hepperla cited Assembly Bill 32, passed by legislators and signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The bill establishes a timetable to bring California into near compliance with the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol. In signing the bill, Schwarzenegger declared, “We simply must do everything we can in our power to slow down global warming before it is too late. … The global warming debate is over.”
The broader issue is that as goes California, so goes the rest of the country.
WARNER-LIEBERMANThe Warner-Lieberman global warming bill died in the U.S. Senate in 2008, but is expected to be revisited in 2009. It was noted that the bill would put tighter limits on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions beginning in 2012.
Also in the congressional mix is what is being called a new Energy Reform Act of 2008, instituted by so-called “Gang of 10” Senators, said Sheila Millar, an attorney with the Washington, D.C., law firm of Keller & Heckman.
“This is an $84 billion plan with similar legislation under discussion in the House of Representatives,” Millar explained. “Three major components include transition of vehicles to nonpetroleum-based fuels, federal commitment to conservation and energy efficiency, and targeted domestic production of energy resources.”
REGIONAL INITIATIVESContractors could be more immediately affected by the several regional initiatives noted by Hepperla. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is being promoted as the first mandatory, market-based effort in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Ten Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states will cap and then reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector 10 percent by 2018. States will sell emission allowances through auctions and invest proceeds in consumer benefits: energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other clean-energy technologies.
“RGGI is expected to spur innovation in the clean-energy economy and create green jobs in each state,” said a statement from the organization.
The Western Climate Initiative (WCI), launched in February 2007, “is a collaboration of seven U.S. governors and four Canadian Premiers. WCI was created to identify, evaluate, and implement collective and cooperative ways to reduce greenhouse gases in the region, focusing on a market-based cap-and-trade system.”
Nine Midwestern governors and two Canadian premiers have signed on to participate in or observe the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord (Midwest Accord), as first agreed to in November 2007 in Milwaukee. “Realizing the unique and major impact that the Midwestern states play in the emissions of carbon, these governors wanted to institute Midwestern practicality in the debate on global warming,” stated the organization.