The first brief was filed in April  the federal case against a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule that would ban the use of non-refillable refrigerant cylinders by 2025 and require refillable cylinders to be tracked using QR codes.

The brief, filed by lawyers for three trade associations and the only U.S. manufacturer of refrigerant cylinders, argues that the EPA overstepped its authority in issuing the rules, which were finalized last fall as part of the EPA’s guidelines for phasing down the use of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants, which are considered greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

The EPA’s issued the guidelines following the passage of the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act of 2020, which gave a green light to the HFC phasedown.

In the brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, petitioners said that while they support the HFC phasedown effort, banning disposable refrigerant cylinders and mandating a QR-code tracking system are unnecessary steps that would place extra burdens on the industry and endanger technicians. These technicians would be forced to use heavier refillable cylinders, while not achieving the EPA’s stated goal of curbing the possible future smuggling into the U.S. of banned HFC refrigerants and preventing the release of leftover gases when nonrefillable cylinders are disposed of.

The petitioners behind the brief are Heating, Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI), Air-Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), Plumbing-Heating Cooling Contractors-National Association (PHCC), and Worthington Industries Inc., the Columbus, Ohio, company that makes refrigerant cylinders.

“We want to see EPA enact regulations in accordance with the authorities granted by law.”
Alex Ayers
Government affairs director, HARDI

“We believe this litigation is necessary to protect our industry from unnecessary agency overreach,” said Alex Ayers, the HARDI government affairs director. “HARDI fully supported the AIM Act and we want to see EPA enact regulations in accordance with the authorities granted by law.”

EPA representatives did not comment on the petitioners’ brief despite repeated requests. The EPA has until June 6 to file a formal response with the court, but oral arguments are not expected until after the court’s summer recess.

Among the arguments put forth in the brief by HARDI and the other petitioners are:

  • Replacing disposable cylinders with refillable cylinders would require an estimated $2 billion industrial investment and the manufacture of 26 million new cylinders, a task for which, they say, manufacturing capacity does not exist.
  • The EPA is overestimating the amount of refrigerant — or “heel” — left in nonrefillable cylinders when they are considered used up.
  • A ban on nonrefillable cylinders in the European Union has been ineffective in preventing HFC smuggling.
  • A QR-code tracking system is “largely incompatible with” the cylinder-tracking methods now used in the refrigerant industry, and a public database associated with the tracking requirement could put confidential trade secrets at risk.

The brief also said the petitioners had presented the EPA with cylinder-identification methods, short of a ban on disposable cylinders, that would combat HFC smuggling.