The Biden-Harris Administration and EPA Continue Progress Cutting Super-Pollutants, Barring Illegal Imports, and Speeding Transition to Cleaner New Technologies to Fight Climate Change and Save Money
WASHINGTON (April 19, 2022) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Biden-Harris Administration continues with its swift implementation of the bipartisan American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act to phase down climate-damaging hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). HFCs are chemicals that are hundreds to thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide (CO2) at trapping heat in the atmosphere. Commonly used in refrigerators, air conditioners, foams, aerosols, and fire suppression, HFCs are being rapidly replaced by cleaner chemicals and more energy efficient technologies spurred by EPA’s actions, which are harnessing American manufacturers’ innovations.
EPA’s AIM Act implementation efforts are part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s whole-of-government approach to reduce climate pollution from HFCs while bolstering the competitiveness of American industries and creating good-paying union jobs. The Administration is taking coordinated steps to support American manufacturing of HFC alternatives, including by leveraging federal procurement power and investing in innovation and testing.
“Congress provided clear, bipartisan direction to aggressively phase down super-polluting HFCs, and the Biden-Harris Administration has stepped up to deliver a program that will ramp up more climate-friendly and energy efficient alternatives, save money, and stop illegal imports,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “This will help the United States to meet our ambitious climate goals while allowing American companies to lead the way with innovative technologies.”
The AIM Act is among the most significant environmental laws enacted by the U.S. Congress in recent years – co-sponsored and passed with strong, bipartisan support and backed by a broad coalition of industry and environmental groups. The law ushers in the use of more climate friendly and energy efficient alternatives that will save money while protecting the environment. American companies are at the forefront of developing HFC alternatives and the technologies that use them, and the AIM Act provides these companies additional opportunities to continue to innovate.
Under the AIM Act, EPA in January established the HFC Allowance Allocation and Trading Program that sets a comprehensive cap on HFCs and phases them down. The phasedown will reduce the consumption and production of HFCs by 85% by 2036, resulting in total emission reductions from 2022 to 2050 that are projected to be the equivalent of 4.6 billion metric tons of CO2 – nearly equal to three years of U.S. power sector emissions at 2019 levels. EPA is also developing a proposed rulemaking to address the methodology for how allowances are distributed in 2024 and later years, and held a stakeholder meeting last month with over 350 participants. In 2024, the HFC phasedown will take its next step and move to a 40% reduction below baseline levels. A global phasedown of HFCs is expected to avoid up to 0.5 °C of global warming by 2100.
Recent AIM Act Implementation Milestones:
EPA recently held a public meeting for its upcoming Technology Transitions rulemaking, which will address opportunities to support sector-based transitions to next-generation technologies, that attracted over 350 participants. The rulemaking under development will address 11 petitions, granted in October 2021, to restrict the use of HFCs in the refrigeration and air conditioning, aerosols, and foam sectors, leading to their replacement by cleaner alternatives. A proposal will be issued for public comment later this year.
On March 31, EPA distributed HFC allowances that had been set aside from the general pool allocated in October last year. Fifty entities received allowances, many of whom were new market entrants and were not eligible in the initial allocation process. EPA also provided notice to three companies of the Agency's intent to retire some of their allowances, due to misreporting data and improperly importing without allowances. The Agency’s administrative consequences authority, which allows EPA to retire, revoke, or withhold the allocation of allowances, or ban a company from receiving, transferring, or conferring allowances, is an important tool to deter illegal HFC production and import.
To ensure that the program achieves its environmental objectives and that American businesses fully reap the return on their investments in new, cleaner HFC alternatives, the Biden-Harris Administration is marshalling a whole-of-government approach to prevent the illegal trade, production, use or sale of HFCs; support the transition to HFC alternatives through research and purchasing; and encourage the reclamation and recycling of HFCs from retired equipment, thus reducing further HFC production.
Since January of this year the Interagency Task Force on Illegal HFC Trade, co-chaired by EPA and the Department of Homeland Security, with participation from Customs and Border Protection and the Departments of Defense, Justice, and State, has been working diligently to stop illegal HFC shipments at the U.S. border. In March the Task Force announced that it had already prevented the equivalent of approximately 530,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions, the same amount as the emissions from nearly 100,000 homes’ electricity use in one year. Over the last few weeks, shipments coming to U.S. ports without proper allowances have continued to be identified, stopped, and re-exported.