Attorney General Becerra Files Amicus Brief to Protect Climate from Potent Greenhouse Gases

Thursday, September 28, 2017
Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO – On behalf of the People of California, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and a coalition of 10 attorneys general, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed an amicus brief in support of the efforts by the Natural Resources Defense Council and private businesses Honeywell International and Chemour to have the full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rehear a case with national and international ramifications involving the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to address climate change.

On August 8, 2017, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals held in Mexichem v. EPA that the EPA lacked the authority under Title VI of the Clean Air Act to stop manufacturers from using hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in their products. Specifically, the panel determined in a 2-1 decision that a key portion of a 2015 EPA rule prohibiting uses of HFCs was unlawful, siding with two foreign companies that manufacture and sell HFCs. HFCs are potent greenhouse gases and are used primarily in refrigeration and air conditioning systems. 

“It is critical that this case be reheard. At stake is nothing less than the future of the planet we will leave our children,” said Attorney General Becerra. “HFCs are greenhouse gases that are thousands of times more destructive to our environment than carbon dioxide. We should be doing everything in our power to reduce HFC emissions, and EPA has the legal authority to do just that. If this case is reheard by the full court, we are confident that EPA’s rule will survive this legal challenge.” 

"California law mandates that we act to reduce these very potent climate pollutants," said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols. "We need the EPA to act in concert with us to close a very big loophole that allows these dangerous chemicals to continue to be used despite the availability of less polluting alternatives." 

In 1990, Congress amended the Clean Air Act and established a federal system for replacing ozone-depleting substances to the maximum extent practicable with alternatives that “reduce overall risks to human health and the environment.” As part of that system, Congress tasked the EPA with designating each alternative as “safe” or “prohibited” and updating those designations as EPA gained new information and industry developed safer alternatives. EPA began identifying HFCs as safe substitutes in 1994. However, 21 years later in 2015, EPA prohibited their use after gaining greater scientific understanding of HFCs and their effects as potent greenhouse gases and identifying the availability of safer alternatives.

Joining Attorney General Becerra and the California Air Resources Board in filing this amicus brief were the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington. Minnesota joined by and through its Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

A copy of the amicus brief is attached to the electronic version of this release at oag.ca.gov/news.

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