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HFC smuggler faces charges under US AIM Act

USA: A San Diego man has been arrested and charged with smuggling HFC refrigerants into the US from Mexico and selling them in contravention of the AIM Act.

The AIM Act seeks to achieve an 85% cut in the supply of HFCs by 2036 under the international Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. In line with phase down requirements, the AIM Act prohibits the importation of HFCs without allowances issued by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Michael Hart, 58, faces charges of conspiracy, importation contrary to law and sale of merchandise imported contrary to law. If convicted, he faces up to 45 years in prison and fines of up to $750,000.

The indictment alleges that Hart purchased refrigerants in Mexico and smuggled them into the USA in his vehicle, concealed under a tarp and tools. According to the indictment, Hart posted the refrigerants for sale online through OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace and other web sites, and sold them for a profit. In addition to HFCs, it is alleged that Hart also imported ozone-depleting HCFC22, which is regulated under the Clean Air Act.

According to the US Attorney’s Office, Southern District of California, Hart made his first appearance in federal court yesterday. He pleaded not-guilty. His next hearing is set for March 25.

US Attorney Tara McGrath said: “This is the first time the Department of Justice is prosecuting someone for illegally importing greenhouse gases, and it will not be the last. We are using every means possible to protect our planet from the harm caused by toxic pollutants, including bringing criminal charges.”

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