A “confluence of policy initiatives” affecting refrigerants is encouraging industry leaders to warn contractors to be on alert for changes that could impact how they do business. Issues related to the hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC)-22 phaseout, possible incorporation of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) into the Clean Air Act, and expanding the use of hydrocarbon (HC) refrigerants motivated ACCA to offer the online Town Hall event to its members on April 22.

The nearly hourlong presentation was made by Charlie McCrudden, senior vice president for government relations for ACCA.

McCrudden reviewed three phaseout options being considered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to end the production and importation of R-22 no later than Jan. 1, 2020. The first, which he said is preferred by the EPA and ACCA, calls for a linear reduction of about 6 million pounds each year until no production is allowed in 2020. A second option, a three-year linear phaseout, ends production and importation in 2018. A third, the “estimation approach,” is based on service needs and adjusts for recovery and reuse. Regarding the latter approach, McCrudden said the uncertainty of making such determinations makes such an approach not plausible.

He also expressed concern to ACCA members over some efforts within the industry and among some members of Congress to promote a zero allocation of R-22 in 2015. McCrudden said such a plan could result in problematic price spikes. Likewise, price spikes in R-22 could result if the EPA delays a decision regarding which of the three phaseout options it will incorporate in its final rule. But, McCrudden said he anticipates a decision from the EPA by this summer or fall, which would give the industry time to prepare for the next step in the phaseout.

Regarding HFC refrigerants, efforts continue — including efforts from industry associations like The Alliance for a Responsible Atmospheric Policy — to include HFCs within the Clean Air Act because of global warming concerns. McCrudden also noted that effort was getting support in the regulatory sector. “It doesn’t matter what you think about global warming — policy makers believe in it,” he said. McCrudden added that including HFCs into Section 608 of the Clean Air Act would not necessarily result in a major change for the industry.

When discussing hydrocarbons (HCs), McCrudden told contractors that the use of refrigerants like isobutene and propane continues to gain attention. “This is one of the most critical issues going forward,” he said. Within that context, he again drew attention to an HC-based product called FROST-22a, which is being sold mainly through the farm supply house sector and being promoted as a replacement refrigerant for R-22 systems, despite repeated safety concerns expressed by HVACR industry leaders, the EPA, and other industry organizations. The overall learning curve associated with training technicians to work with HC refrigerants caused McCrudden to encourage Town Hall participants to stay abreast of the issue.

“We need to get ahead of the HC issue now,” he said. “This is a safety issue.”

Publication date: 6/9/2014

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