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US Court strikes out disposable cylinder ban

USA: The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has struck down the Environmental Protection Agency’s rule that would have banned non-refillable cylinders in the US.

The US AIM Act to phase down the production and consumption of HFC refrigerants, which signed into law in late 2020, included provisions to ban the sale of non-refillable (disposable) cylinders after December 31, 2024. It also required QR code tracking for individual cylinders through the supply chain.

Three trade associations, HARDI, Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), and Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors (PHCC), along with US cylinder manufacturer Worthington Industries, filed petitions against EPA claiming that the non-refillable cylinder ban and the requirement to track individual cylinder provisions exceeded its authority granted by the Act. 

On Tuesday, the court agreed with these challenges, and the EPA has been ordered to vacate these portions of the allocation rule. The EPA is allowed to appeal the decision. 

HARDI CEO Talbot Gee celebrated the decision, saying, “This confirms HARDI’s role in protecting wholesale distribution. Since 2021 when the rule was first proposed, we have sought feedback from our members about these provisions, and overwhelmingly, our membership rejected the need for refillable cylinders and a complex tracking system. HARDI has had a positive, multi-decade relationship with the EPA, and now we look forward to continuing to work with them on the successful implementation of the AIM Act.”

The lawsuit argued that EPA lacked the legal authority to implement the refillable cylinder and QR-code rules. In the final decision, Judge Justin Walker noted, “We agree. The EPA has not identified a provision of the AIM Act giving it the authority to require refillable cylinders or a QR-code tracking system.” 

Disposable bans

Non-refillable cylinders have already been banned in many parts of the world including Europe, Canada, India and Australia. With no formal waste stream, there are environmental concerns that a “heel” of refrigerant inevitably remains behind in an “empty” cylinder. It is estimated that the vapour and liquid heel could represent as much as 10% of the original refrigerant charge – all of which could inevitably be released to atmosphere. 

Non-refillable cylinders have been banned in Europe since 2007. Despite this, the F-gas phase down in Europe prompted a tide of illegal refrigerant imports with the non-refillable cylinder the black marketeer’s container of choice due to its lower weight and lower cost.

Aware of the problems in Europe, the EPA insisted that the rules were necessary to prevent illegal imports of HFCs and argued that it could derive its authority from the phrase “shall ensure” existing in the statute. 

The industry group insisted that the EPA was already well equipped to stop illegal imports without operationally burdening the entire HVACR supply chain.

HARDI’s director of government affairs, Alex Ayers, commented, “Since the passage of the AIM Act in 2020, the EPA has been diligently working to get the regulations in place for our industry to phase down the use of HFCs, but with the speed of these regulations comes bad ideas that will damage our members. We continue to fight back with all of our available resources to stop these bad ideas from being implemented. 

Despite this, Ayers said that HARDI and the entire HVACR industry remained supportive of the HFC phase, adding, “We look forward to continuing to work with the EPA in achieving the goals of the AIM Act.” 

Related stories:

Worthington joins legal challenge to disposable cylinder ban4 December 2021
USA: Worthington Industries has announced that it will also file a legal petition for review of the EPA’s ban on non-refillable refrigerant cylinders. Read more…

HARDI files lawsuit over US disposable cylinder ban – 2 December 2021
USA: HARDI, the US HVACR wholesalers association, is going to court in an effort to overturn the new US ban on non-refillable, disposable cylinders. Read more…

Worthington calls for rethink on disposable cylinder ban – 20 November 2021
USA: Refrigerant cylinder manufacturer Worthington Industries has called on the US EPA to rescind the forthcoming ban on disposable, non-refillable cylinders. Read more…

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