Attorney General Becerra on Multistate Comment Letter Opposing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Proposal to Allow Refrigerant Leakage

Sacramento, CA…California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, leading a coalition of 16 states, have filed formal comments against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rollback of refrigerant management regulations that grew out of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. The regulations ensure the safe disposal and evacuation of refrigerants from appliances such industrial air conditioners and commercial cooling equipment, diligent record-keeping, the certification of technicians, appliance maintenance, and leak repair. Venting or releasing these refrigerants and their substitutes contribute to ozone depletion and climate change ­- among the most severe environmental threats faced by modern human civilization.

“U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s proposal to rollback regulations that protect against global warming should be immediately withdrawn,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Wheeler has once again abdicated the EPA’s mission to protect our health and the environment, by failing to oversee the use of harmful chemicals that will dramatically increase emissions and accelerate climate change. I demand that Wheeler act in the best interest of the public he is tasked to serve and immediately withdraw this illegal proposal.”

As part of the Climate Action Plan, the Obama EPA extended the regulations to include systems that use hydroflurocarbons (HFCs) as refrigerants in place of ozone-depleting refrigerants that the regulations already covered. Among other damaging impacts, ozone depletion is linked to skin cancer, cataracts, immune suppression, and respiratory disease, and it also leads to roughly $10–20 billion in annual crop losses. HFCs, which are increasingly used as substitute refrigerants, do not harm the ozone layer; but, they are extremely potent greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change with global warming potentials thousands of times greater than that of carbon dioxide. In 2016, the EPA estimated that extending these regulations to HFCs would prevent annual emissions of greenhouse gases equivalent to 7.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

The comments filed today explain why the EPA’s proposal is unreasonable, unjustifiable, imprudent, and should be immediately withdrawn.

Specifically, the EPA proposal:

  • Unlawfully licenses industry to emit more ozone- and climate-damaging chemicals at the expense of human and environmental health;
  • Relies on an inaccurate reading of the federal statute and reflects an inadequately explained departure from prior policy;
  • Ignores its own lawful authority to extend appliance-maintenance and leak-repair requirements to substitutes;
  • Violates the Clean Air Act by erasing a feasible approach to reducing GHG emissions the agency is tasked to address;
  • Fails to provide any discernable gain from the rollback of regulations;
  • Erroneously analyses the true costs and benefits of the proposed rule; and
  • Increases uncertainty for regulated businesses by undermining a sensible and comprehensive regulatory program.

A copy of the letter can be found here.

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