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US to Introduce HFC phase-down and bans

US president Barack Obama's climate action plan, announced last June, calls on the USA to show leadership on climate change
US president Barack Obama’s climate action plan, announced last June, calls on the USA to show leadership on climate change

USA: One of the leading green groups claims that the USA is set to phase-down and ban certain high GWP HFC refrigerants.

According to the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), the USA is to follow Europe in introducing controls on these refrigerants as early as this summer.

The US government’s Environmental Protection Agency made the announcement in a meeting on February 4 with environmental groups and industry.

Applauding the move, Mark W Roberts, the EIA’s senior counsel and international policy advisor, said “The US has been behind the EU and most of the world in embracing low-GWP alternatives, using HFCs instead. However, with President Obama’s leadership in his Climate Action Plan, the US is banning the use of the most harmful HFCs and opening the US market to low-GWP alternatives.”

Danielle Gagne, HFC and climate policy analyst at the EIA, told the Cooling Post “There will be two rule makings beginning this year – one this spring on the approval of hydrocarbon and other technologies, and the other in the summer listing the bans.”

Specifically, the new listings under the US  Significant New Alternatives Policy programme include proposals for the inclusion of isobutane in plug-in retail refrigeration equipment and vending machines, propane in domestic fridges and vending machines, R441A (the hydrocarbon blend approved by the US EPA in 2010) in plug-in retail refrigeration equipment, vending machines and domestic packaged air conditioners. R32, the refrigerant being developed for use by the major Japanese manufacturers, is also proposed for SNAP listing for use in domestic packaged ac.

The potential status change under the SNAP alternatives would prohibit certain uses of the most harmful chemical alternatives. These could include the use of R134a and refrigerants with a higher GWP in commercial vending machines and plug-in reach-in refrigerators. R507A, R404A and HFC blends with high GWPs could be prohibited in distributed supermarket systems, while retaining the substitutes R407A and R407F.  It could also follow the European MAC directive in banning R134a in car air conditioning systems.

In a stakeholder meeting on February 4, the EPA said: “We currently believe that there are lower GWP alternatives that are available or potentially available for certain end uses in the aerosols, foam-blowing, air conditioning, and refrigeration sectors. Accordingly, we have begun to look at individual end uses in these sectors and to focus on whether some high-GWP HFCs should no longer be acceptable.”

“By banning one of the worst refrigerants used by supermarkets [R404A], the EPA is sending a strong signal to the industry that they must clean up their act and use more environmentally friendly refrigerants,” said Danielle Gagne.

The US, along with the world’s other leading economies, agreed to phase down the use of HFCs at the Group of 20 summit in September 2013.

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