Attorney General Bonta, CARB Push EPA for Stricter Regulations of Highly Potent Greenhouse Gas

Thursday, July 15, 2021
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OAKLAND — California Attorney General Rob Bonta and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) today led a multistate coalition in urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use its authority under the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act to adopt stricter regulations to curb emissions from hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). HFCs are thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide in their ability to trap heat over a twenty-year timeframe and the fastest growing source of emissions in the United States and the world. In today's petition, the coalition argues that, in order to address climate change and meet President Biden’s climate goals, it is critical that the EPA exercise its authority to regulate HFCs to the fullest extent and take bold action to cut emissions of this harmful super pollutant, including adopting regulations like California’s stringent HFC prohibitions. 

“Climate change is no longer an abstract concept. It is right here, right now, devastating communities, disrupting the economy, and depleting our natural resources,” said Attorney General Bonta. “As the People’s Attorney, I’m committed to doing all I can to tackle the climate crisis — and I hope the EPA will do the same. Recognizing HFCs’ growing share of emissions, California has led the country in regulating the use of this super pollutant, but we can't go it alone. It’s going to take all of us, doing our part, to protect this planet for future generations.”

“With this petition California, other states and jurisdictions urge U.S. EPA to bring certainty to the regulation of one of the world’s most damaging climate super pollutants,” said CARB Executive Officer Richard W. Corey. “In contrast to other greenhouse gases, HFC emissions continue to rapidly rise, and taming them offers the world a chance to take a big step toward curbing the impacts of climate change. U.S EPA now has the authority to provide a new and significant tool in that effort, and we urge them to use it quickly.”

HFCs are widely used in residential, mobile, and commercial cooling systems — such as air conditioning and refrigeration — as well as in building foams and aerosols. Once deemed a safer alternative for the environment relative to ozone-depleting substances, which destroy the earth’s ozone layer, HFCs were later understood to pose huge environmental risks as potent greenhouse gases with large global warming potentials. Because of this high potential, their increasing share of emissions, and their relatively short lifespan in the atmosphere, reducing consumption and production of HFCs — in the near term — is one of the best options for addressing climate change. 

In 2015, the EPA issued regulations that would have required HFCs to be replaced with safer chemicals. As a result, many U.S. businesses have already invested in technologies to manufacture alternatives. However, these regulations were partially struck down in 2017 on the grounds that the EPA lacked the authority under the Clean Air Act to require them. To fill this void, 11 states, including California, have adopted or are in the process of adopting laws that prohibit the sale and manufacturing of HFC-containing products and equipment by certain dates. With support from California and other states, Congress passed the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act in December 2020. The Act requires the EPA to facilitate the phase-down of HFC use and production by 85% over the next 15 years and gives the EPA broad authority to take the actions to regulate HFC emissions that the coalition seeks. 

Earlier this month, California joined a coalition of 14 attorneys general in support of the EPA's proposal to establish a cap-and-trade program to phase down production and consumption of HFCs, as required by the Act. In today’s petition, a similar coalition urges the EPA to go a step further and create regulations akin to California’s stringent HFC prohibitions. The coalition also requests that the EPA reinstate its 2015 regulations and reinstate other requirements to help cut HFC emissions that were rescinded under the Trump Administration.

Attorney General Bonta and CARB are joined by the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia, as well as New York City, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the Maryland Department of the Environment, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Washington State Department of Ecology, in filing the petition.

A copy of the petition can be found here.

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