In October, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new actions the agency will take to curb emissions from ozone-depleting (ODS) refrigerants and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), greenhouse gases used in refrigeration and air conditioning. The actions were created along with private and public sector leaders to help smooth the transition from ODS and HFCs to more climate friendly alternatives.
According to the EPA press release, the following actions were included in the announcement:
- EPA proposed a rule that would improve the way refrigerant is sold, handled, recovered, and recycled. The proposal would strengthen the existing requirements for handling refrigerants and apply those rules to ozone-depleting and HFC refrigerants. EPA estimates that this rule would further reduce enough HFC emissions in 2025 to equal 7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.
- EPA also announced that it intends to initiate a proposed rulemaking in 2016 under EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy Program in 2016 that would change the status for certain high global warming potential HFCs to unacceptable where safer alternatives are available and also approve several new climate-friendly alternatives for a variety of industry applications.
- Lowering the leak rate threshold above which owner/operators of refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment normally containing 50+ lbs. of refrigerant must repair leaks:
- lower from 35% to 20% for industrial process refrigeration (IPR) and commercial refrigeration equipment
- lower from 15% to 10% for comfort cooling equipment
- Requiring regular leak inspections or continuous monitoring devices for ref/AC systems:
- annual inspections for systems normally containing 50+ lbs. of refrigerant
- quarterly inspections for commercial refrigeration and IPR systems normally containing 500+ lbs. of refrigerant
- Prohibiting operation of systems normally containing 50+ lbs. of refrigerant that have leaked 75% or more of their full charge for two consecutive years.
- Allowing the purchase of cans containing two pounds or less of non-ODS refrigerant for motor vehicle air conditioner (MVAC) servicing without technician certification so long as the small cans have a self-sealing valve to reduce refrigerant releases.
- Requiring technicians to keep a record of refrigerant recovered during system disposal from systems with a charge size from 5–50 lbs.
“EPA is working closely with industry leaders to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, transition to climate-friendly refrigerants, and deploy advanced refrigeration technologies,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “The powerful combination of EPA’s regulatory actions and innovations emerging from the private sector have put our country on track to significantly cut HFC use and deliver on the goals of the President’s Climate Action Plan.”
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