September 22, 2023

EPA sets stricter limits for hydrofluorocarbons used in refrigerators, air conditioners

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency is enforcing stricter limits on hydrofluorocarbons, highly potent greenhouse gases used in refrigerators and air conditioners that contribute to global warming.

A rule announced Tuesday will mandate a global 40% reduction in HFCs starting next year, part of a global phase-out designed to slow climate change. The rule is consistent with a 2020 law calling for an 85% reduction in the production and use of the climate-damaging chemicals by 2036.

Officials said refrigeration and air conditioning systems sold in the United States will emit far fewer HFCs as a result of the rule, the second step in a 15-year phase-out of the chemicals that once dominated refrigeration and refrigeration equipment.

Here’s a look at HFCs and what the United States and other countries are doing to limit their use.


Hydrofluorocarbons are very potent greenhouse gases commonly used in refrigerators and air conditioners. HFCs produce greenhouse gases thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide. They often leak through pipes or appliances that use compressed refrigerants and are considered a major cause of global warming.


More than 130 countries, including the United States, signed a 2016 global agreement to sharply reduce the use and production of HFCs by 2036.

The Senate last year ratified the so-called Kigali Amendment to the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Ozone Pollution in a rare bipartisan vote. The measure commits participating countries to phase out the production and use of HFCs by 85% over the next 13 years, as part of a global phase-out designed to slow climate change.

Scientists said the agreement, reached in Kigali, Rwanda, could help the world avoid half a degree of warming.

Ratification of the amendment, signed last year by President Joe Biden, follows bipartisan action taken by Congress in 2020 to pass the U.S. Innovation and Manufacturing Act, which phased out domestic HFC production. The AIM Act has accelerated the industry’s shift from HFCs to alternative refrigerants that use fewer harmful chemicals and are widely available nationwide. The law also avoids a previous patchwork of state laws and regulations governing HFCs.


The new rule announced on Tuesday builds on a 10% cut required by the end of this year. It requires a total reduction of 40% from 2024 to 2028.

Companies that manufacture, import, export, destroy, use, process or recycle HFCs are covered by the rule.

EPA officials said the rule would help ensure the US leads the way as countries around the world implement the Kigali Amendment. The HFC phase-out, “backed by domestic innovation to develop alternative chemicals and equipment, paves the way for the United States to address climate change and strengthen global competitiveness,” said Joe Goffman, deputy assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation.

White House climate adviser Ali Zaidi said the rule will help develop next-generation refrigeration technologies, “ensuring that American workers reap the benefits of a growing global market for HFC alternatives.”


The Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute, which represents air conditioning, heating and commercial refrigeration manufacturers, called the rule a critical step toward implementing the AIM law.

“Our industry appreciates the work of the EPA and the timely issuance of this rule as we prepare for the next HFC reduction step in January,” said Stephen Yurek, president and CEO of AHRI.


The EPA rule includes a range of administrative penalties, including license revocation and the revocation of allowances for companies that do not comply. Fines and criminal sanctions may also be imposed. EPA said it has rounded up the administrative fallout by phasing out more than 6.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent for 2022 and 2023 for companies that misreported data or imported HFCs without required duties.

Since January 2022, an interagency task force on illicit HFC trafficking, led by EPA and the Department of Homeland Security, has prevented illegal HFC shipments worth more than 1 million tons of carbon dioxide at the border, officials said. That is the equivalent of the CO2 emissions of more than 200,000 homes during a year.

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