USA: Update on the high-GWP HFC ban

In January, the U.S. Court of Appeals denied petitions for a rehearing of its ruling on high-GWP HFCs.

In the 1990s, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP). This programme was created to identify and evaluate substitutes for ozone-depleting substances. Over the last few decades, the EPA has published a certain number of rules through this programme.

In July 2015, a rule entitled “Prohibition on the use of certain high-GWP HFCs as alternatives” was published1. This rule classified the use of refrigerants such as R134a or R404A, for instance, as unacceptable.

In September 2015, refrigerant manufacturers Mexichem and Arkema filed a petition for review to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit against this rule, arguing that the EPA lacked authority to issue a rule restricting manufacturers from making products containing HFCs, which are not ozone depleting substances.

In August 2017, the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Mexichem and Arkema, and the EPA rule on HFCs was rejected. The text of the decision is available here.

In September 2017, the EPA, together with manufacturers Honeywell and Chemours, filed a petition for rehearing.

On January 26, 2018, the Court of Appeals denied this petition. The text of the Court of Appeal’s decision is available following this link. In light of this decision, Honeywell and the Natural Resources Defense Council recently stated that they were considering making an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Finally, in February 2018, a new bill entitled the "American Innovation and Manufacturing Act" was introduced by a bipartisan group of US senators in response to the Court of Appeal's decision. If this bill is passed, it will ensure that the EPA has the authority to oversee the phasedown of HFCs in the USA.

Moreover, some states could adopt the EPA ruling regardless of the decision of the Court of Appeals. In this context, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) Chair Mary D. Nichols recently stated: “The California Air Resources Board is moving ahead to control super pollutants, including high global warming potential F-gases like hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) […] In March 2018, the Board will hear California's version of the federal program including possible adoption of some of the federal Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) provisions into state regulation.”

For further information, please follow the following links.

1 A fact sheet of the rule is available following this link.