In the first Biden administration rule aimed at combating climate change, the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to phase down production and use of hydrofluorocarbons, highly potent greenhouse gases commonly used in refrigerators and air conditioners.
The proposed rule follows through on a law Congress passed in December authorizing a 15-year phaseout of HFCs. The new rule is intended to decrease U.S. production and use of the gases by 85% over the next 15 years, part of a global phaseout intended to slow climate change.
HFCs are considered a major driver of global warming and are being targeted worldwide. President Joe Biden has pledged to embrace a 2016 global agreement to reduce HFCs.
A huge pandemic relief and spending bill passed by Congress in December, and signed by former President Donald Trump, directs EPA to sharply reduce production and use of HFCs. The measure won wide support in both parties and was hailed as the most significant climate change law in at least a decade.
Besides targeting HFCs, the so-called American Innovation and Manufacturing, or AIM Act also promotes technologies to capture and store carbon dioxide produced by power and manufacturing plants and calls for reductions in diesel emissions by buses and other vehicles.
The HFC provision was supported by an unusual coalition that included major environmental and business groups, including the National Association of Manufacturers and the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute, which represents companies that make residential and commercial air conditioners, water heaters and commercial refrigeration equipment.
The industry has long been moving to use of alternative refrigerants and was pushing for a federal standard to avoid a patchwork of state laws and regulations.
EPA estimates the proposed rule would save nearly $284 billion over the next three decades and prevent the equivalent of 187 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, roughly equal to annual greenhouse gas emissions from one out of every seven vehicles registered in the United States.
Biden issued an executive order in January that embraces the 2016 Kigali Amendment to the 1987 Montreal Protocol on ozone pollution. The amendment calls for the U.S. and other large industrialized countries to reduce HFCs by 85% by 2036. Biden’s order directs the State Department to prepare documents for submission of the amendment to the Senate for formal ratification.