March at-a-glance…environment

AHRI developing nationwide HFC phase-down recommendation; NAFEM members to provide input before finalizing

In late-December, Congress authorized the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a nationwide approach to phasing down the production and consumption of ozone-depleting hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) over 15 years. In doing so, they included a provision for sector-based use restrictions to facilitate the transition to “next-generation technologies.”

In response, the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) has been working with NAFEM and others on a recommendation for refrigeration equipment using 1,500 global warming potential (GWP) and above gases. According to Lauren MacGowens, AHRI’s lead regulatory advisor for refrigeration technology, the organization will host a webinar in April to discuss their recommendation with the industry before finalizing and advancing to EPA.

Once a final EPA rule covering the phase down of HFCs takes effect, state laws will be preempted for five years, with another five-year preemption possible.

“The proliferation of state-by-state regulations has caused significant business challenges for NAFEM members,” said Charlie Souhrada, CFSP, NAFEM’s vice president, regulatory & technical affairs. “NAFEM has been working toward a nationwide approach for HFC phase downs for more than five years. We’ve pleased to see this work coming to fruition.”

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

Delaware HFC reductions begin Sept. 1

Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) announced new HFC regulations March 1. The phase-down schedule takes effect Sept. 1. The regulation addresses HFCs used in air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment, aerosols and foams. DNREC made several revisions to the regulation based on NAFEM input, including postponing the effective date to Sept. 1.

Delaware’s Cool Switch low-impact refrigeration program offers incentives to offset the costs of switching to new equipment or retrofitting existing equipment to use a low-global warming potential refrigerant. It is a voluntary program available to state businesses and non-residential consumers that use at least 50 lbs. of refrigerant.

Biden administration adopts Obama-era interim Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases

Following President Biden’s day one request for a science-based figure, the Interagency Work Group announced that it is reinstating the Obama administration’s Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases adjusted for inflation. Until additional research is completed and a final figure announced within one year, $51/ton will be used by federal agencies to account for climate impacts in their decision-making.

The metric was first introduced by the Bush administration and was standardized across all agencies in the Obama administration. The Trump administration revised the social cost to $1/ton.

“As the Biden administration continues to move toward its 2050 goal of a net zero carbon economy, we can expect to see increased emphasis on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases in executive branch decision making,” said Charlie Souhrada, CFSP, NAFEM’s vice president, regulatory & technical affairs.

Greenhouse gases include carbon (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). The Interagency Working Group is co-chaired by the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Office of Management and Budget, and Council of Economic Advisors.