A consulting firm attempting to speed up the phaseout of hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC)-22 has been dealt a setback as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit denied an appeal by New Era Group Inc. against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The denial, issued Oct. 3, is the most recent development in complex legal wrangling that dates back to 2013, when the New Era Group, a firm representing several refrigerant reclaimers, alternative refrigerant manufacturers, and refrigerant distributors, sought to stop the EPA from allowing production and importation of R-22 that year.

According to Peter Williams, president, New Era Group, New Era asked the EPA to reconsider the 2013 ruling that 64 million pounds of R-22 could be produced and imported in that year. Williams claimed that EPA’s findings regarding R-22 inventory and reclamation capacity were based on information the agency had not disclosed or made available for public review. The EPA’s denial of that request for reconsideration caused New Era to file an appeal on April 11.

The court, in its Oct. 3 ruling, in effect turned aside New Era.

“Petitioner [New Era] has not shown that the documents withheld from the certified index to the administrative record are relevant to the petition for review of the denial of the petition for reconsideration,” read the court document. “[The] petitioner argues it was impracticable to raise its objections during the public comment period because the EPA failed to inform the public of the size of the HCFC-22 inventory. The EPA, however, provided such information.”

The court also tossed out New Era’s claim that the EPA’s allowances of R-22 have “had an adverse environmental impact, improperly provided allowances to foreign-based companies, and harmed the HCFC reclamation and alternative refrigerant industries by allocating excessively high HCFC production allowances.”

Basically, the court ruled against New Era in this regard on the technicality that New Era “did not address these issues in its response to the motion for summary denial.”

Timeline Considerations

Meanwhile, the EPA has allowed about 51 million pounds of new and imported R-22 in 2014 and is currently looking at a reduction to about 30 million pounds in 2015. The exact 2015 total is not yet known, although the EPA is expected to issue its final phasedown ruling in the next few weeks. Its ‘preferred linear reduction’ approach would allow 30.2 million pounds in 2015, 24 million pounds in 2016, 18 million pounds in 2017, 12.1 million pounds in 2018, and 6 million pounds in 2019. Other options could start the final countdown at anywhere from 22 to 50 million pounds in 2015. Whatever the choice, all options will prohibit the production or importation of R-22 in 2020.

Publication date: 10/20/2014

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