Air conditioners and other more climate-friendly products are on the way

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that it is moving forward with proposals to accelerate the transition of super-pollutant hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in refrigeration, air conditioners, heat pumps, l ‘insulation and aerosols where more climate-friendly alternatives are available.

New generation air conditioners will use more climate-friendly refrigerants

The move, taken under the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act (AIM Act) passed last year, responds to several petitions submitted by the NRDC and its allies, including environmental groups, states and industry.

The petitions call on the EPA to ban the use of HFCs in key applications where there are better alternatives. Air conditioners, heat pumps and other equipment and products that depend on HFCs will switch to alternatives in the coming years. Alternatives to HFCs are readily available and consumers will soon have access to next-generation products with a smaller climate footprint.

What do petitions cover?

With today’s action, the EPA grants a subset of the 13 petitions submitted by various environmental groups, states, and industry that have called on the agency to:

  • Restore federal restrictions on products that were technically eliminated by a 2017 court ruling. These restrictions were designed to remove HFCs from car air conditioners, foams and aerosols, and stop the use of HFCs most dangerous in refrigeration and chillers. Following the court ruling, ten states adopted the state-level rules. The AIM law provides for their reinstatement at the federal level.
  • Make the limits adopted in California and Washington for large end uses such as air conditioning nationally applicable, with acceptance by regulated industries. These standards exclude the most potent HFCs used in air conditioning, heat pumps, and commercial and industrial refrigeration.

You can read more about each petition here and view all petitions submitted here.

Wait, didn’t the EPA just finalize another rule on HFCs?

Yes, the HFC allocation rule, which gradually reduces the overall HFC supply. The petitions the EPA granted today will reduce demand for HFCs by requiring large HFC user sectors to switch to alternatives on specific dates.

There are significant advantages to deploying both levers simultaneously. The gradual reduction in supply will lead to increased competition for HFCs between consuming sectors. Transitioning large end-uses where alternatives already exist will alleviate some of this competition for shrinking HFC supply, helping the United States to meet phase-down without disruption – and possibly even faster than the current schedule.

What to expect next?

One regulation (or two). By accessing petitions, EPA is committed to proposing and finalizing regulations based on notice and comment regulation, resulting in specific requirements that may not be the same as for petitions. The EPA is due to finalize the rules within two years.

The NRDC will continue to work with the EPA and all relevant stakeholders during the rulemaking process to ensure the swift transition of these sectors.

But our work does not end there. There is more potential for reducing emissions by reducing leaks and recovering and reusing refrigerant from existing equipment. Watch for more on this soon.

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