Two Views of the DC Court’s HFC Ruling
The EPA can’t use SNAP to phase down HFCs –is that a pointless sidetrack or a wise slowdown?
It is said that every story has two sides, and two recent conversations I had with estimable members of the refrigeration industry vividly illustrated that. Both of these gentlemen have been involved in the industry for a long time -- one on the supplier side and one on the contracting side. The topic of both conversations was the ruling by a United States court of appeals that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cannot ban the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) under Section 612 of the Clean Air Act. The topic was the same, but the conversations were very different.
In a nutshell, the court ruled in favor of Mexichem and Arkema, which had petitioned for a review of a 2015 EPA rule that in effect called for a massive phasedown of HFCs under Section 612 because HFCs are greenhouse gases linked to climate change. The court ruled that Section 612 only applies to ozone-depleting substances – which HFCs are not. The ruling struck down an Obama Administration executive order under which EPA sought to reduce HFC emissions under its Significant New Alternatives Policy Program (SNAP) program (which is included in Section 612).
Here was one take:
“EPA chose SNAP [to regulate HFCs] because it was the path of least resistance, and they desperately wanted to give President Obama something he could flaunt before leaving office. My personal belief is that this issue needs to be debated by Congress and put through the standard legislative process. If Congress can agree to amend the Clean Air Act, then it is law, and everything and everyone will fall into place.
“Without a flimsy regulation being shoved down their throats, manufacturers, and the people that distribute, install, and use their equipment, can choose products based on their perceived value, and not because a law is forcing them to. If manufacturers can be competitive by designing around new generation refrigerants and consumers see value in the resulting greener lines of equipment, they will buy it and CO2 emissions will decrease. Free market capitalism did produce the greatest country in the history of mankind, didn’t it?”
Meanwhile, the other distinguished gentleman had a different view.
“In my opinion, this is a nonsense ruling,” he said. “[The HFC phasedown] has already been put in motion. Honeywell and Chemours have made alternatives such as R-448A and R-449A that have been approved by SNAP, and they are heavily invested in marketing them to end users. The end users, in turn, are using those low-GWP alternatives in the real world with good results.
“As far as natural refrigerants, the rest of the world has gone there. The United States should have been in a position to lead this charge, with natural refrigerant adoption that has been 20 years in the making. Now the ‘catch-up’ phase is being disrupted by a political agenda that will slow the money-making process for many in our country. Sad!
So the debate is on. To some, the court’s ruling is pointless because the HFC train has left the station, and it’s time to look to the new frontiers of naturals, hydrocarbons (HCs), and hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs). Others clearly feel that the court ruling confirms that dependable HFCs were being pushed aside too fast by an executive order that relied on regulation at the expense of free market economics.
What do you think of the DC court’s HFC ruling? Is it a pointless sidetrack or a wise slowdown? What does it mean to your business, your customers, and to the refrigeration industry as a whole? Let me hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Publication date: 9/5/2017