U.S. Court Of Appeals Overturns EPA Ruling on Elimination of HFC Refrigerants

Appeals court

This past August, the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned a ruling by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calling for the elimination of Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) based refrigerants by 2019 through 2020 (depending upon the refrigerant).

The primary motivation for the elimination of HFC refrigerants was due to their Global Warming Potential or GWP.

While an improvement over previously banned Chlorofluorocarbon refrigerants that held Ozone Depleting Potential (remember the hole in the ozone that captured so much media attention through the 90’s?), HFC’s were still an environmental risk as they remain in the atmosphere for a much longer period of time than say, CO2 that breaks down quite quickly.

Supermarket freezer

R404a vs. R290

One of the worst offenders, R404a (an HFC based refrigerant) can absorb 3,260 times more energy than CO2.

By comparison, it’s most popular replacement R290 (a Hydrocarbon or HC based refrigerant) can absorb only 3 times more energy than CO2.

The court found that the Obama EPA exceeded its authority under the Clean Air Act with a 2015 rule that eliminated some uses for hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) — which were previously accepted as alternatives to ozone-depleting substances — and approved certain replacements.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit sent the rule back to EPA.

“However much we might sympathize or agree with EPA’s policy objectives, EPA may act only within the boundaries of its statutory authority. Here, EPA exceeded that authority.”

Judge Brett Kavanaugh,

Who was appointed by President George W. Bush, wrote for the court.

Commercial refrigerationImpact to the Commercial Refrigeration Industry

European based manufacturers have been using R290 refrigerants for over a decade, a mandate driven primarily by the Environmental Sustainability mandates of their larger customers such as:

  • Unilever
  • Nestle

In North America however, there has been less of a push towards the friendlier HC based refrigerants leaving some manufacturers with a long road of R&D ahead.

  • On this basis alone, the overturned EPA ruling could be considered a win, at least for the short term.

But as more and more corporate buyers get on board with sustainability mandates, the likelihood of R290 and other HC based refrigerants being used for mass production is pretty good.

We work with both companies mentioned above who have mandates to purchase freezers and coolers using HC based refrigerants, even for the North American Market.

And the use of R290 is a double win. It’s not only less damaging to the environment, but it’s also a more efficient refrigerant, helping us to improve energy efficiency across our entire line of products.

Case in point:

  • It is unlikely we would have achieved the Department of Energy’s (DOE) 2017 standards for energy efficiency that called for improvements of up to 50% over previous models without the implementation of R290.

Who Wins In The End?

Minus Forty Technologies has long held a progressive position on environmental sustainability.

Our perspective has always been that if it is good for the environment and it is good for business (broader market appeal) then it should be implemented on our products and processes, regardless of any mandate, be it from the government or from a client.

In the end, we all win, including future generations who are left with a healthier environment and lower demands on the electrical grid.

if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.

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