What is Happening with HCFC-22?
On February, 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit partially vacated EPA’s HCFC-22 and HCFC-142b allowances as a result of the Arkema v. EPA litigation. EPA’s first step in response was to publish an interim final rule that provided allowances for 2011.
More recently, EPA published a proposal that, when finalized, would provide HCFC-22 and HCFC-142b production and import allowances for 2012, 2013 and 2014. EPA is proposing to allow an amount in 2012 that is between approximately 55,000,000 lbs. and 90,000,000 lbs. of HCFC-22 production and import. The agency will finalize the number of allowances for each of those years after reviewing input from the public.
Since HCFC-22 allowances for 2012-2014 are not granted until a final rule is published, EPA has allowed companies who would receive allowances in the proposal to continue producing and importing HCFC-22. This enforcement discretion allows them to continue importing and producing a limited amount of HCFC-22 (approximately 55,000,000 lbs. industry-wide in 2012 and approximately 40,000,000 lbs. in 2013) until a final rule is in place. This is the lowest amount EPA would provide, so the final amount could be higher.
Q: Has EPA made a final decision on the amount of HCFC-22 production and import allowed?
A: No. EPA is currently reviewing feedback from industry and the public and will finalize the amount of HCFC-22 production and importation allowed as soon as possible.
Q: Why does EPA want to reduce the amount of HCFC-22 that can be produced or imported?
A: Market factors and feedback from industry indicate there was an over-supply of HCFC-22 in 2011, which was discouraging use of reclaimed refrigerant and slowing transition to ozone-safe alternatives. HCFC-22 damages the ozone layer, which protects people from over-exposure to ultraviolet radiation, and the over-supply of HCFC-22 was not promoting proper handling and recovery of the gas. For these reasons, EPA proposed to provide fewer allowances in 2012-2014. The agency also requested feedback on the market analysis it used in the proposal.
EPA's analysis of current market conditions (e.g., the Adjustment Memo) is described in the proposed rule and is available in the docket for the rulemaking.
Q: Did EPA recently ban the use of HCFC-22 in air conditioning or refrigeration equipment?
A: "Virgin" (or newly-produced) HCFC-22 can still be used to service existing air conditioning and refrigeration equipment that was installed prior to January 1, 2010. Servicing includes replacing individual components and repairing leaks. Regulations finalized in 2009 ban the use of virgin HCFC-22 in new systems manufactured after 2009. Individual users may decide whether it is best to repair existing equipment or replace it with new equipment that does not use HCFC-22.
Q: Is EPA limiting the amount of refrigerant companies and contractors can buy?
A: No. As long as a contractor is certified under Section 608 of the Clean Air Act, he or she may purchase HCFC-22 refrigerant.
Q: When will EPA finalize the amount of allowed production and import?
A: EPA is currently reviewing feedback from industry and the public and will finalize the amount of HCFC-22 production and importation allowed as soon as possible.
Q: When did EPA start phasing out ozone-depleting HCFCs, commonly used in air conditioners and refrigerators?
A: EPA established a framework for phasing out HCFCs, including HCFC-22, in 1993. For HCFC-22, that framework called for restricting the use of virgin material in 2010, making it available only for servicing systems installed before 2010. The framework also called for eliminating all HCFC-22 production and import in 2020. Those dates have not changed.
Q: When is EPA phasing out the production and importation of HCFC-22?
A: The production and importation of newly-produced HCFC-22 will be completely phased out by 2020. EPA is working to foster as smooth a transition as possible by lowering the amount of production and importation year-by-year, instead of allowing a drastic cut-off in 2020. This approach fosters a robust reclamation industry, which ensures that sufficient HCFC-22 is available to service equipment now and after the complete production phaseout in 2020.
Q: What options do I have if I cannot purchase HCFC-22?
A: There are a number of acceptable alternatives to HCFC-22 that do not deplete the ozone layer. These include R-134a, R-404A, R-407C, and R-410A, among others. In the United States, R-410A is the most popular choice for new home air conditioners. R-410A is sold under several trade names, including GENETRON AZ-20®, SUVA 410A®, Forane® 410A, and Puron®. Note that some alternatives, including R-410A, cannot be used in existing HCFC-22 equipment, only in new systems designed for R-410A.
EPA evaluates and regulates substitutes for ozone-depleting chemicals that are being phased out in its Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Program. EPA maintains a list of acceptable and unacceptable substitutes according to end use, including end uses in the refrigeration and air-conditioning sector that have traditionally used HCFC-22. Under SNAP regulations, only certain substitutes may be used to retrofit existing equipment. If approved substitutes are used, technicians should be trained on proper retrofit installation and servicing techniques.
For more information, see the following Frequently Asked Questions for:
A detailed Question and Answer on the HCFC Allowance Allocation System, which EPA uses to phase out HCFCs, is also available.