Do you remember Taboo, that word-based board game from the 1990s? It’s the one where you take a card with a word at the top of it, and you try to get your teammates to guess that word.

The catch is, the card also contains five other words that you are not allowed to say as you give clues to your teammates. If you say a forbidden word, BUZZ! — an opponent hits the buzzer, and you lose a point. The team that guesses the most words in the allotted time wins the game.



Listening to comments and member Q&A at the Heating, Air-conditioning, Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) Fly-In last month about the reportedly upcoming industry-supported federal HFC phasedown legislation was like hearing a group go over the Taboo rules — except for some depressing and slightly surreal political version of the game.

Helen Walter-Terrinoni, the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute’s (AHRI’s) vice president of regulatory affairs, spoke along with Samantha Slater, AHRI’s vice president of government affairs. Hearing them outline their approach for persuading Congressional conservatives — largely Republican, but one can’t rule out the right Democrat in the right circumstances — to vote for the bill was interesting, even if they made clear that a few words were … well, you know.

As for the bill itself, the most straightforward way to describe the in-progress language is that it serves as a legislative means to achieve the goals of the Kigali Amend—


“That’s a word I don’t use anymore,” Walter-Terrinoni said of “Kigali” when a member asked if they should avoid bringing up the amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, passed by 71 other nations.

OK. Then it’s a climate bill th—


AHRI recommended that the attendees ixnay the imateclay word when meeting with certain Hill denizens.

Um … all right, let’s see. In addition to providing a path to avoid a regulatory nightmare for so many businesses, the bill would be an environmentally friendly way to address greenhouse ga—


Two more phrases out of the lexicon on the advice of AHRI’s officials. By that point, a representative’s staffers may have escorted you from the premises.

“We avoided a lot of language,” acknowledged Walter-Terrinoni, who is a professional and did not roll her eyes.



Take a moment to consider that we’re not talking about the small-r republican nirvana of representatives debating policies and philosophies on their merits. We’re talking about powerful public servants around whom you reportedly can’t use certain straightforward words to discuss important policy options without risking an instant dialogue shutdown.

Alex Ayers, HARDI’s director of government affairs, joined the discussion when a HARDI member asked why people would be against this bill.

“We hear all the time, ‘If the president had sent Kigali for a vote [in the Senate], it would have passed overwhelmingly,” he said. Indeed, 13 Republican senators sent a June 2018 letter to President Donald Trump asking him to forward Kigali for ratification.

However, Ayers explained, in addition to getting buzzed for its “climate change” context, the hitch for certain influential others was that the Kigali amendment was “multilateral” and “international.” The kind of words that some areas don’t take much of a shine to.

At the end of the day, Ayers said, “It was political, not policy.”

To be fair, Walter-Terrinoni pointed out that the Obama administration was slow to pick up the mantle for Kigali because White House support for it had actually originated in the last months of the Bush administration.

But of course, both administrations had supported it in the end. So if even uttering its name is a no-no in supposedly serious talk these days, there’s something more intellectually virulent going around than mere partisanship.

With a bigger page, we could discuss how gerrymandering congressional districts tends to create more extreme constituencies, which further discourage open minds or moderate voting records in Washington. However, the bottom line remains: A do-nothing standoff in Washington will make life more difficult for contractors and distributors nationwide on a number of fronts — transportation, safety, inventory, training, to name a few.



… what exactly can you say in support of this potential legislation?

According to the people crafting the message, the federal HFC phasedown approach would represent an “innovation-based approach for a necessary technology transition.”

Pretty smooth, right? And completely true, if not addressing the entirety of the situation.

Thus, HARDI members were equipped to invite reluctant representatives to get more comfortable with the proposal by stepping inside that carefully honed eight-word safe space.

There’s also the question, not discussed that day, about whether a federal solution would represent a minimum that a state could exceed if it wanted to, or if the bill instead would represent a fixed approach with limits that individual states could not exceed on their own. Would a state like California be allowed to set regulatory targets beyond the extent of the federal wording?

If it only sets a minimum, as the environmental lobby might like, many states would probably still take the easy route and just adopt the federal wording. However, the bill would lose a key selling point as a rock-solid, no-exceptions alternative to the dreaded patchwork of state-level regulations and schedules.

That single question of federal preemption (or not) could represent a serious hurdle, and it could threaten any fragile bipartisan coalition. Then again, what are the chances that such a coalition will even develop, given what in some circles has become such a politically correct environ—


Publication date: 6/17/2019

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