ARLINGTON, Va. — Stephen Yurek, president and CEO of the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), has issued a response to what he called “several inaccuracies” in an article that appeared in theNew York Times on smuggling of HCFC-22, or R-22, refrigerant. (To read theNew York Times story,click here.)

AHRI noted that the purpose of the article was to shed light on the issue of refrigerant smuggling from developing nations, where R-22 is plentiful and cheap, to the United States and other countries, where the restrictions of the Montreal Protocol limit the supply and make it more costly. Rather than focusing on ways law enforcement might combat R-22 smuggling, however, AHRI said the article laid the blame at the feet of air conditioner manufacturers, attributing demand for R-22 “to the reluctance of manufacturers to step up development of more environmentally friendly machines.”

Yurek said that, not only have manufacturers developed central air conditioners and heat pumps that are more than twice as efficient as those meeting the federal minimum standard that existed in 2005, but all U.S. manufacturers had equipment available that used non-ozone depleting refrigerants for over a decade before the January 2010 phaseout of R-22 required by the Montreal Protocol and implemented by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“The EPA rules governing the latest major step in the Montreal Protocol phaseout of R-22 were not released until mere weeks before they were to go into effect,” Yurek stated. “Even so, our manufacturers had already prepared to cease producing all R-22 units by the deadline.” However, the EPA rules did not contain a complete ban on the manufacturing of new equipment using R-22, but allowed production of R-22 equipment as long as it was not charged with refrigerant until installed. AHRI petitioned EPA to remove this provision and ban the manufacture of new equipment using R-22. EPA has yet to act and the provision remains.

“Therefore, the New York Times article’s implication that manufacturers are to blame is wrong and misdirected. There are thousands of products available in the market that contain non-ozone depleting refrigerants at efficiency levels at and significantly higher than the federal minimums. The demand for R-22 equipment cannot be laid at the feet of manufacturers,” Yurek said. “If the EPA rules had been released in a timely manner and if the EPA had banned the manufacture of new equipment using R-22 as everyone intended and expected, this situation would not exist today.”

Yurek also objected to what he said is the article’s implication that manufacturers violate U.S. law to ensure greater access to R-22. “It is outrageous for the New York Times to suggest, without a shred of evidence, that manufacturers are in any way involved with the use of smuggled refrigerants,” he said. “Our member companies have always strictly abided by U.S. law and will continue to do so. Any allegation to the contrary is completely without merit,”

Publication date: 9/17/2012