Senate Proposes Bipartisan Amendment to Regulate HFCs

HFCs or hydrofluorocarbons, are super greenhouse gases, manufactured for use in refrigeration, air conditioning, foam blowing, aerosols, fire protection, and solvents. However, unlike most other greenhouse gases, HFCs are not waste products but are intentionally produced. That’s why the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol was a crucial step by the global community to expand the protocol to fight climate change. The amendment was ratified on January 1, 2019, by 65 countries not including the United States (there are some theories as to why this didn’t happen despite bipartisan and business community support).

But yesterday, as NRDC wrote in a press statement that,

Three leaders of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today announced a bipartisan amendment to the Senate’s energy bill that would authorize, for the first time, a 15-year phase down of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a potent climate pollutant used widely in cooling systems. The measure will be offered by Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del), John Barrasso (R- Wyo.) and John Kennedy (R-La.).

Why This Matters: While this isn’t ratification of the Kigali Amendment, as NRDC explained, it is a major breakthrough toward a new federal law curbing super climate polluting HFCs.

BUT: As the Washington Post explained, “the Trump administration has never submitted the Kigali Amendment for a Senate vote, though 17 Republican senators have asked it to do so.

Some manufacturers remain concerned that by passing a domestic bill to slash these chemicals, it will make it harder to muster support for Senate approval of the international treaty in the next Congress. If the United States does not ratify the treaty, American companies may encounter obstacles selling their products overseas, they say.”

The Business Perspective: Conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation have vehemently opposed measures to phase out HFCs while the Chamber of Commerce (America’s largest business lobbying force) called the Senate bill a “win-win.”

The Senate Bill: As the Dover Post explained, the Senate bill would seek to accomplish the following:

— Preempt state and local governments from regulating HFCs for those Congressionally designated essential uses for five years, unless extended by EPA to a maximum of 10 years if there remains no substitute chemical for a use;

— Provide protection for consumers by ensuring that the EPA acceleration of the 15-year phasedown timeline cannot move faster than technological capacity;

— Maintain the 85% phase-down of HFCs, avoiding up to half a degree Celsius of global warming while creating an additional 150,000 direct and indirect U.S. jobs through the expansion of domestic manufacturing of HFC alternative technologies; and,

— Improve the trade imbalance in chemicals and equipment by $12.5 billion and increase manufacturing output by close to $39 billion over the next seven years.

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