February ’23 at-a-glance … environment  

NAFEM comments on new EPA proposed HFC restrictions

NAFEM called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to extend the deadline to restrict the use of super-polluting hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in refrigeration and other products beyond the Jan. 1, 2025, date outlined in the agency’s proposed rule. NAFEM’s comments state “For commercial refrigeration manufacturers to redesign their equipment for new or alternative refrigerants, while also having to comply with U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) energy-efficiency standards … results in a multi-year process that undoubtedly will extend well beyond Jan. 1, 2025.” NAFEM also commented that competing regulatory issues including reduction of PFAS (per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances) and food safety standards must be considered in redesigning equipment.

White House reinstates inclusion of environmental data in federal decision making

The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) has issued new National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) interim guidance requiring consideration of climate change, greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and environmental justice when agencies evaluate major federal actions. This interim guidance replaces and updates the CEQ’s 2016 guidance on these issues that was revoked by the prior administration.

While the updated interim guidance is effective immediately, the CEQ will receive public comments until March 10. It could then revise the guidance in response to public comments or finalize its interim guidance.

EPA looks to add PFAS to key initiatives

Every four years, the EPA selects national initiatives to prioritize available resources where federal enforcement can make a difference. As part of that four-year cycle, the agency is seeking public comment and recommendations on its National Enforcement and Compliance Initiatives (NECIs) for fiscal years 2024-2027. The EPA has developed this round of proposed initiatives to align with its goals of tackling the climate crisis and taking decisive action to advance environmental justice. 

Of the six current initiatives, the EPA proposes to return to their standard enforcement program: reducing toxic air emissions from hazardous waste facilities and stopping aftermarket defeat devices that override emission controls for vehicles and engines. The agency proposes to continue the following four ongoing initiatives:

  • Creating cleaner air for communities by reducing excess emissions of harmful pollutants.
  • Reducing risks of accidental releases at industrial and chemical facilities.
  • Reducing significant noncompliance in the national pollutant discharge elimination system program.
  • Reducing noncompliance with drinking water standards at community water systems.

The two potential new NECIs are mitigating climate change and addressing PFAS contamination by implementing the EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap.Comments are due March 13.

ASHRAE updates resources to help reduce building GHG emissions

As part of its goal to accelerate the transition from commitment to action in reducing global built environment GHG emissions, ASHRAE launched a redesigned Task Force for Building Decarbonization (TFBD) webpage and a new Building Performance Standards Technical Resource Guide. Jointly developed by ASHRAE, DOE and its national laboratories, the guide is meant to provide the information needed to make informed policy decisions that drive deeper existing building decarbonization and provide equitable outcomes for all.