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EPA Proposes Use of Climate-Friendly Alternatives to HFCs

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to expand the list of acceptable substitutes and prohibit the use of certain chemicals in the U.S. that significantly contribute to climate change where safer, more climate-friendly alternatives exist. This is another step forward in a series under President Obama's Climate Action Plan, which aims to reduce emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a class of potent greenhouse gases that can be up to 10,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide and are used in air-conditioning, refrigeration, and other equipment. The emissions avoided from this proposed rule are estimated to be up to 11 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2030, which is equal to the emissions from the energy used by approximately one million homes for one year.

“This new proposal would reduce the use and emissions of some of the most harmful HFCs, which are thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide, and approves safer, more climate-friendly alternatives to protect public health and our environment,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “In support of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, this action will not only result in significant reductions of harmful greenhouse gases, but it expands the options for safer alternatives available on the market.”

EPA is both proposing to expand the agency’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Program list of climate-friendly alternatives and, now that safer options are available, proposing to change the status of certain higher-global warming potential (GWP) substances that were previously listed as acceptable. In developing this proposal, the agency received input from industry, environmental groups and others through workshops and meetings over the past year.

EPA’s actions under the SNAP Program have been instrumental in the U.S. meeting its obligations under the Montreal Protocol, a global treaty through which all countries have agreed to reduce the use of chemicals that harm the Earth’s atmosphere. At the November 2015 Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol treaty in Dubai, led by Administrator McCarthy, countries across the world took the historic step to work together in 2016 to amend the Montreal Protocol to reduce the production and consumption of harmful HFCs. The statement released by Administrator McCarthy following the agreement can be viewed here. Today’s SNAP proposal shows the U.S. commitment to these goals. The first preparatory session for the Montreal Protocol since the adoption of the Dubai Pathway will be held April 4-8 in Geneva.

EPA’s proposal includes:

· listing as acceptable, subject to conditions to ensure safe use, propane and HFO-1234yf in specific end-uses in the refrigeration and air conditioning sector, and a new fire suppression agent for streaming and total flooding uses on aircraft;
· listing as unacceptable certain flammable hydrocarbon (HC) refrigerants and HC blends for retrofitting existing residential central air conditioning equipment that was designed for non-flammable refrigerants;
· listing as unacceptable propylene and the HC blend R-443A in specific end-uses in the refrigeration and air conditioning sector; and
· modifying the listing status for certain high-GWP alternatives for certain end-uses in refrigeration and air conditioning (e.g., chillers and household refrigerators), foam blowing, and fire suppression and explosion protection sectors, and for methylene chloride for certain end-uses in the foam blowing sector.

Under the authority of the Clean Air Act, EPA’s SNAP Program evaluates chemicals and technologies on an ongoing basis within a comparative risk framework. Over the last two decades, SNAP has fostered continued innovation by evaluating more than 400 substitutes for some of the most harmful chemicals used across the economy.

Today’s action builds on EPA’s July 2015 SNAP final rule prohibiting certain HFCs in the aerosols, foams, and refrigeration and air conditioning sectors.

EPA will accept comment on the proposal for 45 days after publication in the Federal Register. If a hearing is requested, further information will be provided at https://www.epa.gov/ozone/snap.

Learn more about EPA’s SNAP Program and the proposal: https://www.epa.gov/snap/snap-regulations

More on the agreement reached in Dubai.

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