On April 13, 2018, the U.S. EPA issued a notice of guidance with respect to the August 2017 DC Circuit Court ruling that vacated the SNAP Rule 20 “to the extent it requires manufacturers to replace HFCs with a substitute substance” and remanded the Rule back to EPA. The purpose of the guidance is to “dispel confusion and provide regulatory certainty for stakeholders” affected by the Rule. EPA will hold a stakeholder meeting to discuss the proposed guidance on May 4, the document and meeting details can be found by clicking https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2018-04/documents/snap-guidance-notice_as-signed-4-13-18-with-disclaimer.pdf.
EPA intends to begin a notice-and-comment rulemaking process to address the specifics of how they plan to apply the ruling. Until this process is complete, the Agency is advising that it will not apply any of the HFC listings in the SNAP Rule 20, published on July 20, 2015.
In summary, then, the status of Rule 20 is as follows:
- The Court has denied all petitions for rehearing the SNAP case and issued the mandate on February 6, 2018 sending SNAP Rule 20 back to EPA.
- The Court’s decision invalidated the HFC delistings in Rule 20 to the extent they require replacement of HFCs, and there is now no such federal restriction on the uses of HFCs that were banned in Rule 20 in aerosols, foams and refrigeration applications.
- With the Court having invalidated the delistings, EPA’s guidance merely confirms that the Agency will not be enforcing them and that it will be revisiting its past framework for the SNAP program.
With respect to SNAP Rule 21, published on December 1, 2016, a separate legal challenge was being held in abeyance pending the outcome of the Court’s decision on Rule 20. Since the arguments would apply equally to both Rules, it is expected that Rule 21 will follow the same path.
Arkema continues to be a strong supporter of reducing HFC emissions, which includes the development and use of low Global Warning Potential (GWP) HFCs and HFOs. We believe that any effort to require use of lower GWP alternatives should be holistic and should establish an overall cap while giving customers the flexibility to pick the best products for an efficient, and safe transition without market disruptions as experienced with past transitions – these critical elements were missing with the current use of the SNAP program. Like many in the U.S. industry, Arkema supports the recently negotiated Kigali Amendment to The Montreal Protocol (the Kigali Agreement) as the correct vehicle to achieve this goal. It creates a clear framework for regulation rather than a patchwork of application and product-specific requirements.
Arkema believes that the Court’s action paves the way for a safe, practical and efficient transition to the next generation of refrigerants and foam blowing agents that will benefit our industry and the environment, while allowing the market to select the best products and technologies.
Learn more about SNAP news: U.S. Appeals Court final ruling on SNAP petitions
Section 608 – refrigerant management
The updated Section 608 was published in November 2016, extending the refrigerant safe handling requirements to HFCs. The rule lowers the leak rate thresholds that trigger mandatory repairs of refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment, requires quarterly/annual leak inspections or continuous monitoring devices for refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment that have exceeded the threshold leak rate, and requires owners/operators to submit reports to EPA, if the equipment containing 50 or more pounds of refrigerant leaks 125% or more of its full charge in one calendar year, and new recordkeeping is required for the disposal of appliances containing 5 to 50 lbs of refrigerant. These requirements became effective on January 1, 2018, at the exception of the revised leak repair provisions, which will become effective on January 1, 2019.
EPA has issued several fact sheets to assist appliance disposal and recycling facilities, distributors and wholesalers, refrigerant reclaimers, supermarkets, and other properties and facilities, and technicians. Fact sheets are available at https://www.epa.gov/snap/snap-regulations.
The Kigali Amendment (adding HFCs to the Montreal Protocol) has passed the threshold of 20 country ratifications, and will now go into effect on January 1, 2019. Although the treaty is global, the Kigali Amendment is legally binding only for those countries that ratify it.