Green, industry groups file appeals to save EPA greenhouse gas rule

Green, industry groups file appeals to save EPA greenhouse gas rule
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An environmental group and two chemical companies filed appeals Friday of a court decision that overturned an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule restricting the use of certain greenhouse gases.

They’re asking all 10 judges in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to rehear the case after a three-judge panel overturned the EPA’s hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) regulation.

The Trump administration’s EPA was the main party defending the 2015 rule that the Obama administration wrote in the court case. Friday is the deadline to file for appeals, and the administration had not yet filed one.

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In the 2015 rule, the EPA sought to restrict the use of HFCs — common in air conditioning and refrigeration systems — through a Clean Air Act provision that was originally written in 1990 to phase out ozone-depleting substances.

HFCs grew in use as a replacement for some ozone-depleting chemicals, but they turned out to be extremely potent greenhouse gases.

In its August ruling, the court said the EPA went too far when it determined that the ozone provisions of the Clean Air Act could also be used to clamp down on greenhouse gases like HFCs.

In Friday's briefs, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Honeywell International Inc. and Chemours Co. said the original three-judge panel relied on overly restrictive definitions when it overturned the HFC rule, and it should be entitled to more leeway in interpreting the Clean Air Act.

“The panel majority eviscerated the critical program Congress enacted to ensure that substitutes adopted to replace ozone-depleting chemicals ‘reduce overall risks to human health and the environment’ ‘to the maximum extent practicable,' " the NRDC wrote, quoting the Clean Air Act.

“If the decision stands, HFCs will continue fueling dangerous climate change and increasing the harms suffered by millions of Americans experiencing extreme weather events and other climate impacts.”

“The decision eviscerates EPA’s ability to ensure that chemicals used in countless consumer and industrial products are safe for the planet,” wrote Honeywell and Chemours, who said they’ve invested more than $1 billion in developing chemicals to replace HFCs.

“It not only eliminates an important regulatory tool to address climate change, but also a tool that EPA has used to ban toxic substitutes.”

Mexichem Fluor Inc., a Mexican-owned company that produces HFCs, had filed the original lawsuit that resulted in last month’s decision overturning the rule.

If the full 10-judge court declines to rehear the case, the parties involved could try appealing to the Supreme Court.