Executive Briefings

Federal Court Tosses Obama-Era Ruling on Chemicals Used in Refrigeration, Air Conditioning

A federal court handed climate change advocates a narrow loss last week when it tossed an Obama-era ruling to phase out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used in refrigeration and air conditioning.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled 2-to-1 that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cannot use the Clean Air Act as the vehicle to ban HFCs. That's because the section of the law that EPA references is intended to protect the ozone layer. And by everyone’s admission, HFCs are not ozone-depleting substances.

“The fundamental problem for EPA is that HFCs are not ozone-depleting substances, as all parties agree,” the court said. “Because HFCs are not ozone-depleting substances, Section 612 would not seem to grant EPA authority to require replacement of HFCs.”

“When manufacturers stop using ozone-depleting substances in their products, manufacturers may need to replace those substances with a substitute substance,” the court said. “Under Section 612(a), EPA may require manufacturers to use safe substitutes when the manufacturers replace ozone-depleting substances.”

Despite the court’s ruling, U.S. chemical companies say that they are working to produce climate-friendly products used in refrigeration and air conditioning, all to correspond to with an agreement reached in October 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda. That’s where about 150 countries vowed to phase out HFCs beginning in 2019.

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled 2-to-1 that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cannot use the Clean Air Act as the vehicle to ban HFCs. That's because the section of the law that EPA references is intended to protect the ozone layer. And by everyone’s admission, HFCs are not ozone-depleting substances.

“The fundamental problem for EPA is that HFCs are not ozone-depleting substances, as all parties agree,” the court said. “Because HFCs are not ozone-depleting substances, Section 612 would not seem to grant EPA authority to require replacement of HFCs.”

“When manufacturers stop using ozone-depleting substances in their products, manufacturers may need to replace those substances with a substitute substance,” the court said. “Under Section 612(a), EPA may require manufacturers to use safe substitutes when the manufacturers replace ozone-depleting substances.”

Despite the court’s ruling, U.S. chemical companies say that they are working to produce climate-friendly products used in refrigeration and air conditioning, all to correspond to with an agreement reached in October 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda. That’s where about 150 countries vowed to phase out HFCs beginning in 2019.

Read Full Article