EPA Proposes Major Rule to Reduce Certain Greenhouse Gases

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a formal proposal of a rule phasing down the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are used as refrigerants, the agency announced May 3, 2021.

The reduction will decrease HFC production and use in the U.S. by 85 percent over the next 15 years. The rule is being issued under a law passed last year by Congress.

The EPA said that phasing down the use of the gases globally would avoid up to 0.5 °C of global warming by 2100.

The agency said it will create an allocating and trading program under which it will issue an allowance for how much of the gases can be used for 2022 by Oct. 1.

It will also determine how much of the gases can be used for 2023 by that date next year.

The agency said that it will create a framework within the legal timeline for the phaseout, and will revisit allocating HFCs for 2024 and beyond.

The EPA is proposing that each year, it would issue a “calendar-year allowance” that is valid between January 1 and December 31 for HFC production and consumption.

It would also allocate “application-specific allowances” for products such as medical inhalers and “defense sprays” like pepper spray and animal sprays.

The agency will count HFC imports as part of the consumption allowances. It will exempt from the allowances HFCs that will be used to make another chemical such as feedstock, characterizing this as a “transformation” rather than production or consumption.

The allowances in question would be based on weighted values instead of creating allowances for each specific HFC.

The agency estimated that for the year 2022, the proposal will have overall annual benefits totaling $2.6 billion, which reflects a calculated social benefit of $2.8 billion and $200 million in compliance costs.

It calculated that between 2022 and 2050, the cumulative net benefits of the reduction will be between $278.6 billion and $283.9 billion.

It noted that because of health risks linked to air toxins in communities near HFC-producing facilities, it will seek input on whether there are equity concerns surrounding the phase downs, allowance trades or substitute production.