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AHR Expo: HFC Refrigerant Regulatory Update

Feb. 11, 2020
The U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of governors, has stepped up to take the lead on SNAP 20 and 21.

Caption: Emerson’s Jennifer Butsch updates 2020 AHR Expo attendees on what’s going on in the refrigerant landscape as HFCs are being phased down.

While European nations lead the way in the use of low global warming potential refrigerants, the EPA continues to roll back refrigerant regs in the United States, noted Jennifer Butsch, Emerson’s air conditioning regulatory affairs manager,  Feb. 4 at the AHR Expo in Orlando, FL. A court challenge resulted in SNAP Rules 20 and 21 being vacated at the federal level, and a proposal to the Clean Air Act would exclude HFCs from Section 608 of the Refrigerant Management Program.

HFC refrigerants have been used since the 1990s to replace ozone-depleting substances but have a high global warming potential due to their capacity to trap heat in the atmosphere. SNAP Rules 20 and 21 restrict manufacturers from using HFCs in aerosols, motor vehicle air conditioners, commercial refrigerators, and foams, with SNAP Rule 21 specifically limiting the use of HFCs in foam-blowing agents for closed cell foam products. 

“However, several states have stepped up to take the lead on this issue,” she said.

These states form the U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of governors committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement — which the United States has not signed. To date, California, Washington and Vermont have adopted the SNAP 20 and 21 rules, Butsch noted.

She added that there are two pieces of federal legislation that the air conditioning community is interested in:

  • The American Innovation and Manufacturing Bill of 2019, proposed in the Senate.
  • The American Innovation and Manufacturing Leadership Bill of 2020, proposed in the House.

Both bills, Butsch explained, would phase down production and consumption of HFCs over 15 years, as well as authorize the EPA to regulate HFCs and establish standards for HFC management. “HFC regulation is desireable,” she added. “A federal approach could minimize complexity and the patchwork of regulations.”