EPA to restrict more greenhouse gases

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed Thursday a ban on some uses of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), compounds that are used in cooling systems and aerosols but are also extremely potent greenhouse gases.

The EPA is moving to ban the substances under a section of the Clean Air Act that allows restrictions on the use of some pollutants when viable alternatives exist. Certain HFCs would be prohibited in vehicle air conditioning, food refrigeration and aerosol propellant applications.

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The action is intended to be part of the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan, which seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, among other goals. The EPA said the regulation would cut the equivalent of 42 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution by 2020, the same amount of emissions from powering 5 million homes for a year.

“Today, we are issuing a new proposal that builds on the innovative work businesses across the country have already made to reduce and replace some of the most harmful chemicals with safer, more climate-friendly alternatives that are available and on the market today,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement. “This action will not only result in significant reductions of harmful greenhouse gases, but it will also encourage businesses to continue bringing safer alternatives to market.”

HFCs are one of the six types of gases that the EPA identified in its 2009 finding that listed the greenhouse gases that harm the public health. HFC emissions have grown since the 1990s as the federal government encouraged their use as an alternative to other gases that harm the atmosphere’s ozone layer.

The EPA said Thursday’s action complements a proposal in late June that would expand the substances that would be acceptable for use in refrigeration systems, and that minimally harm the ozone.

The agency is accepting comments from the public for 60 days.