US: EPA proposes new alternative automobile AC refrigerants

EPA is proposing to list two refrigerants, HFC-152a and CO2, as acceptable alternatives for motor vehicle air-conditioning systems, provided that the automotive industry complies with the necessary conditions to deploy them in a safe manner. These new alternatives, when used with proper risk-mitigation technologies, would reduce the impact of mobile air conditioners on the environment. However several States have laws that may inadvertently prohibit use of these alternatives even if they are ultimately found acceptable by EPA. Connecticut, for example has a law that bans automobile refrigerants that may be "toxic to persons or… flammable" and this law could also restrict new technologies using CO2 and HFC-152a. Other states have revised their laws to allow the use of refrigerants that are listed as acceptable under the Clean Air Act, while still protecting the public against hazardous refrigerants. For example, Montana regulations provide that "Air-conditioning equipment may contain only refrigerant that has been included in the list published by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as a safe alternative motor vehicle air-conditioning substitute for R-12 (fluorocarbon). Automakers and component manufacturers have informed EPA that they will be making design and manufacturing decisions on the "next generation" air-conditioning technologies by mid-2007. States may wish to potentially consider legislative or regulatory adjustments to allow use of refrigerants consistent with Federal listings so that automobile manufacturers may install new technologies that safely use these refrigerants.