USA: The US EPA’s plans to reduce the use of high GWP refrigerants have been derailed after a federal court overturned usage bans introduced in 2015.

In a case brought by refrigerant manufacturers Mexichem and Arkema, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia’ decided 2-1 that the EPA could not use a section of the Clean Air Act to target HFCs.

Under the EPA rules, high GWP refrigerants including R404A, R134a, R407C and R410A were to be removed from the EPA’s SNAP list, banning them from use in certain new products from as early as January 1, 2021.

Mexichem and Arkema argued that the 2015 Rule exceeded the EPA’s statutory authority under Section 612 of the Clean Air Act. In particular, they contended that EPA did not have statutory authority to require manufacturers to replace non-ozone-depleting HFCs with alternative substances. They also alleged that the 2015 Rule to remove HFCs from the SNAP list was arbitrary and capricious because EPA failed to adequately explain its decision and failed to consider several important aspects of the problem.

Significantly, the appeal was not supported by the two largest US refrigerant manufacturers Honeywell and Chemours and, despite its enviro-sceptic stance, the EPA rule was also defended by the Trump administration, which sent attorneys to argue the case in February.

“This ruling has significant implications for our industry and we will be monitoring the EPA’s response closely,” AHRI president and CEO Stephen Yurek told the Washington Examiner.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, which strongly supported the EPA rule, maintains that decision does still offer the EPA a pathway to accomplish its goals, by retroactively determining that some HFCs should not have originally been approved and are therefore no longer legal for use going forward. “In that case, EPA’s limits on the use of HFCs may be permissible if the agency takes a different route to get there. But this will require a new rulemaking,” said the NRDC’s climate and clean air programme director David Doniger.

The EPA is said to be reviewing the decision.

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