February at-a-glance…environment

Biden Administration recalculating the social cost of carbon, new figure likely to result in stricter environmental regulations

We’re going to be hearing a lot about the social cost of carbon in the coming weeks and months. Identified as the cost to society of releasing a ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, the social cost of carbon considers the overall impact of climate change, including lost agricultural productivity, property damage from strong storms and less freshwater availability. CO2 is measured because it is the main greenhouse gas (GHG) emission.

President Obama introduced the first federal social cost of carbon in 2009. When he left office in 2017, it was calculated at $52 per ton. The Trump administration introduced a new estimate as low as $1 and included only domestic damages, not global. President Biden asked for a new interim figure within 30 days and final long-term figures for CO2, methane and nitrogen oxide by January 2022. The information is to be based on the best available science and economics.

“A social cost of carbon helps decision makers and the public translate the complex harm of emissions into values that can be readily understood,” said Nathanial Shoaff with the Sierra Club’s Environmental Law Program.

The Biden administration tentatively plans to leverage Earth Day (April 22) to reveal plans to substantially cut GHG emissions by 2030. It already has announced a commitment to reach the ultimate goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“These plans to combat climate change will transform our lives in ways that are sometimes subtle and other times hard to ignore,” said Charlie Souhrada, CFSP, NAFEM’s vice president, regulatory & technical affairs. “Ironically, this more aggressive agenda could promote a more stable regulatory environment with predictable standards and possible incentives for technology-focused solutions.”

National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) President and CEO Jay Timmons said, “Manufacturers have been calling on Congress to enact a single unified climate policy that meets science-based targets, ensures a level playing field without carbon leakage, and preserves consumer choice and manufacturing competitiveness.” NAM outlined these goals and its solutions in its climate policy blueprint, The Promise Ahead.

NAFEM has overhauled its Technical Liaison Committee (TLC) as a step toward helping members prepare for these developments, creating task groups to share information on commercial kitchen ventilation, equipment communication, fuels, international compliance, refrigeration, research & development, and sanitation & environment. (See “Get Involved!” below.)

“Members’ voices and expertise will be essential as we collectively tackle the social cost of carbon and resulting issues that will set the tone for how the industry does business for the next 30 years,” Souhrada said.

NAFEM collaborating with AHRI, others on federal HFC reduction goals

In late-December, Congress gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority to phase down the production and consumption of ozone-depleting hydrofluorocarbons over a 15- year period by authorizing EPA to establish:

  1. Standards for the management of HFCs used as refrigerants and for the recovery of “used” HFCs for purification and resale.
  2. Sector-based use restrictions, as a way to facilitate transitions to next-generation refrigerant technologies.

Since then, NAFEM has been working with Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) and others on a recommendation for sector-based reduction targets. Initial efforts are focused on equipment using 1,500 global warming potential (GWP) and above gases. After securing stakeholder feedback, the recommendation is expected to be submitted to Congress in March.

“NAFEM has been working toward this solution for more than five years,” said Charlie Souhrada, CFSP, NAFEM’s vice president, regulatory & technical affairs. “We’re pleased to see Congress act to eliminate what have been confusing and conflicting state-by-state regulations.”

The new regulations do not impact the use of HFCs in existing refrigeration and air conditioning equipment or constrict aftermarket supplies of HFCs for servicing existing equipment.

SBA hosts Environmental Roundtable Feb. 26

HFC phase-downs also will be discussed during a Feb. 26 Small Business Association (SBA) Environmental Roundtable. Cindy Newberg from EPA’s Office of Atmospheric Programs will speak from 11:15 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. ET. RSVP is required.