EPA restricts climate-warming chemicals used in refrigeration

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The Obama administration moved Thursday to restrict the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the most potent greenhouse gases emitted by human activity.

The Environmental Protection Agency declared Thursday in a regulation that certain uses for HFCs are prohibited and certain alternatives can be used.

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HFCs do not naturally occur anywhere and have been used in refrigeration, air conditioning, aerosols, fire retardants and similar applications.

The move is part of President Obama’s second-term push to slow climate change, in part through regulations limiting greenhouse gases. The EPA said the private sector is already moving away from HFCs.

“This rule will not only reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, but also encourage greater use and development of the next generation of safer HFC alternatives,” EPA head Gina McCarthyGina McCarthyThe Clean Water Rule: One year later How Congress got to yes on toxic chemical reform Overnight Energy: Labor rift opens over green mega-donor MORE said in a statement. “It is in line with steps leading businesses are already taking to reduce and replace HFCs with safer, climate-friendly alternatives.”

Without the right regulations, the EPA estimated that HFC use would double by 2020 and triple by 2030.

In a blog post, Brian Deese and Dan Utech, two of Obama’s top advisers on climate issues, said the rule is a major step toward reducing HFCs’ prevalence.

“EPA’s final rule will help us make a significant and meaningful cut in our greenhouse gas emissions—up to the equivalent of 64 million metric tons of carbon dioxide of avoided emissions in 2025,” they wrote.

The regulation came along with the EPA’s approval of various alternatives to HFCs, but more still need to be developed.

“The United States is at the cutting edge not only when it comes to developing the next generation of safe and cost-effective alternatives to HFCs, but also in terms of incorporating these alternatives into American cars, air conditioners, refrigerators, foams, and other products,” the advisers said.

Some HFCs have have global warming potential between 12- and 14,800-times that of the same volume of carbon dioxide, according to the EPA. They also can stay in the atmosphere and continue to warm the planet for hundreds of years.

HFCs came into use in recent decades as replacements for chlorofluorocarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons, both of which deplete the ozone layer and are being phased out as part of the international Montreal Protocol.

The EPA estimated that its Thursday action, which it proposed almost a year ago, would save up to 64 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2025.

Honeywell International Inc., a major manufacturer of some of the cooling and insulating products affected by the rule, said it supports the EPA’s effort.

“Honeywell applauds the EPA on their landmark action to restrict the use of high-global-warming hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are among the most potent greenhouse gases in use today,” Ken Gayer, a Honeywell vice president, said in a statement.

“The EPA’s action will accelerate the adoption of solutions with far less impact on the atmosphere while also spurring private sector innovation and creating jobs,” he said.