The Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute is calling a recent New York Times report on refrigerant smuggling misleading.

The Sept. 8 story highlighted the growing black market for refrigerants being phased out under the 25-year-old Montreal Protocol treaty. According to the AHRI, the article blamed HVAC manufacturers for resisting producing more efficient equipment that uses coolant other than R-22. 

Stephen Yurek, president and chief executive of the group that represents equipment makers, said the Times report contained “several inaccuracies,” noting that members have offered highly efficient HVAC units that use alternative refrigerants for more than a decade.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began phasing out R-22 in 2010.

“The EPA rules governing the latest major step in the Montreal Protocol phase out of R-22 were not released until mere weeks before they were to go into effect,” Yurek said. “Even so, our manufacturers had already prepared to cease producing all R-22 units by the deadline.”

The EPA does not forbid the manufacture of R-22-using equipment as long as the refrigerant is not used until the unit is installed, Yurek said, add that the AHRI opposed this provision.

“Therefore, the New York Times article’s implication that manufacturers are to blame is wrong and misdirected,” he said. “There are thousands of products available in the market that contain non-ozone depleting refrigerants at efficiency levels at and significantly higher than the federal minimums. The demand for R-22 equipment cannot be laid at the feet of manufacturers. If the EPA rules had been released in a timely manner and if the EPA had banned the manufacture of new equipment using R-22 as everyone intended and expected, this situation would not exist today.”

No manufacturers violate U.S. laws to bolster the R-22 market, he added.

“It is outrageous for the New York Times to suggest, without a shred of evidence, that manufacturers are in any way involved with the use of smuggled refrigerants,” Yurek said. “Our member companies have always strictly abided by U.S. law and will continue to do so. Any allegation to the contrary is completely without merit.”