The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced a proposal to rescind its 2016 extension regarding leak repair provisions to appliances that use substitute refrigerants such as HFCs. The proposal would not affect the requirements for ozone-depleting refrigerants.
On Nov. 18, 2016, EPA published a rule updating the refrigerant management requirements and extending requirements that previously applied only to refrigerants containing an ozone-depleting substance (ODS) to non-exempt substitute refrigerants, such as HFCs and HFOs. The 2016 Rule essentially extended the “appliance maintenance and leak repair” provisions to appliances that contained 50 or more pounds of non-exempt substitute refrigerant.
The EPA is revisiting the aspects of the 2016 Rule that apply to equipment containing substitute refrigerants. If finalized as proposed, the revised Refrigerant Management rule would rescind the leak repair and maintenance requirements for substitute refrigerants. Therefore, appliances with 50 or more pounds of substitute refrigerants would not be subject to the following requirements:
- Conducting leak rate calculations when refrigerant is added to an appliance;
- Repairing an appliance that leaks above a threshold leak rate;
- Conducting verification tests on repairs;
- Conducting periodic leak inspections on appliances that exceed the threshold leak rate;
- Reporting to EPA on chronically leaking appliances;
- Retrofitting or retiring appliances that are not repaired; and
- Maintaining related records.
EPA is also requesting comment on rescinding other provisions that were extended to substitute refrigerants, including the following:
- Anyone purchasing refrigerant for use in an appliance or handling refrigerants (e.g., air conditioning and refrigeration service contractors and technicians) must be a Section 608-certified technician;
- Anyone removing refrigerant from a refrigeration or air-conditioning appliance must evacuate refrigerant to certain level using certified refrigerant recovery equipment before servicing or disposing of the appliance;
- The final disposer (e.g., scrap recycler, landfill) of small appliances, like refrigerators and window air conditioners, must ensure and document that refrigerant is recovered before final disposal; and
- All used refrigerant must be reclaimed to industry purity standards before it can be sold to another appliance owner.
Acting EPA administrator, Andrew Wheeler, noted that by rescinding the extension of the leak repair provisions to substitutes, the proposed rule would reduce the burden associated with the 2016 Rule by $39 million per year. EPA also estimates this rule would increase the need to purchase non-exempt substitute refrigerant for leaking appliances, at an overall cost of approximately $15 million per year. Thus, incremental compliance savings and increased refrigerant costs combined are estimated to be a reduction of at least $24 million per year.
The advance copy of the proposed rule will be updated once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register. This proposed rule will have a 45-day public comment period. To view the public docket in the Federal Register, visit www.regulations.gov and search for docket number EPA-HQ-OAR-2017-0629. Additionally, EPA will be hosting a public hearing on this proposed rule 15 days after its publication in the Federal Register at EPA Headquarters in Washington DC.
Publication date: 10/3/2018