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US takes AIM at illegal refrigerant shipments

USA: US authorities claim to have prevented illegal HFC refrigerant shipments equivalent to approximately 530,000MTCO2e since January 1, when its cap and phase down rules came into effect. 

Since the beginning of the year, all HFC shipments to US ports require allowances under the USA’s HFC Allowance Allocation and Trading programme.

While the type(s) of illegal refrigerant was not revealed, the amount stated would be equivalent to, for instance, 254 tonnes of R410A or 370 tonnes of R134a.

The figures were revealed at the inaugural meeting of the Interagency Task Force on Illegal Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) Trade, which was established in September last year. The task force is designed to help enforce the US EPA’s cap and phase down on the production and consumption of HFCs under the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act. 

The AIM Act brings the USA into line with the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs by 85% below baseline levels within the next 15 years. 

Violating the AIM Act can result in administrative and civil fines as well as injunctive relief and other consequences including the revocation of allowances. In addition, illegally imported HFCs may be seized by authorities, or the importer required to re-export or destroy the goods, at their cost. Intentional violations of the AIM Act and related smuggling crimes may result in criminal fines, imprisonment, and other penalties. 

In addition to blocking illegal shipments, the EPA has also issued 14 notices of violation to companies that have allegedly failed to comply with HFC reporting obligations under the US Greenhouse Gas Reporting Programme (GHGRP). These companies are said to be HFC importers who received HFC allowances after reporting late.    

The task force is co-chaired by EPA and the Department of Homeland Security, and includes Customs and Border Protection, Department of Defense, Department of Justice, and Department of State. In addition to stopping illegal imports at the border,

“Our task force is already sending the clear message to potential violators that we are fortifying our borders against illegal imports. It’s simple – no allowances, no entry,” said Joe Goffman, principal deputy assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation. 

“The United States is closed to illegal trade – in this case trade that harms our climate. We will continue to ramp up our efforts, so potential violators should beware,” commented Gail Kan, acting executive director of trade policy and programs, Office of Trade, US Customs and Border Protection.

With HFC consumption limits reducing further in coming years, Christina Starr, senior policy analyst at the Environmental Investigation Agency, warned that the incentive for illegal activity would increase. “It is vital for the US to continue this focus on enforcement and deter this behaviour through strict penalties for those found cheating. It also sends a signal for the rest of the world that strong enforcement is pivotal to achieving the climate benefits of the Kigali Amendment globally.”

Related stories:

US finalises HFC phase down plans23 September 2021
USA: The Biden administration has today announced that the Environmental Protection Agency will release a new rule to phase down HFCs by 85% within the next 15 years. Read more…

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