The Shifting Paradigm in Refrigerant Regulations and Management
2o12 has seen the EPA and State Department developing treaties and regulations to reduce the impact to the Environment caused by HCFCs and HFCs, otherwise known as potent greenhouse gasses. Presently there are six regulatory rules that effect refrigerants and their use:
1. The Clean Air Act – EPA issued two memorandums dated May 3, 1995 and August 16, 1996 to provide guidance to the regulated community concerning the applicability and interpretation of the safe disposal regulations under Section 608 of the Clean Air Act. This Act regulates the trade, production & use of refrigerants. The ACT originally was the result of the USA’s participation with the Montreal Protocol, touted as the most successful environmental treaty of its kind. The Montreal Protocol was originally intended to support action intended to reduce the hole in the Ozone layer. However the Supreme Court determined in 2004 that EPA had the responsibility to manage green house gasses as well and, since refrigerants had evolved from Ozone depleting products to Global Warming Gasses, so the regulations evolved as well.
2. The Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer is a protocol to the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of numerous substances believed to be responsible for ozone depletion. The treaty was opened for signature on September 16, 1987, and entered into force on January 1, 1989, followed by a first meeting in Helsinki, May 1989. Since then, it has undergone seven revisions, in 1990 (London), 1991 (Nairobi), 1992 (Copenhagen). 1993 (Bangkok), 1995 (Vienna), 1997 (Montreal) and 1999 (Beijing). It is believed that if the international agreement is adhered to, the ozone layer is expected to recover by 2050. Due to its widespread adoption and implementation it has been hailed as an example of exceptional international co-operation, with Kofi Annan quoted as saying that “perhaps the single most successful international agreement to date has been the Montreal Protocol.” 196 countries and the European Union have ratified the Montreal Protocol.
3. California Regulations under Assembly Bill 32 (AB-32) is a California State Law that fights climate change by establishing a comprehensive program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from all sources throughout the state. AB 32 was authored by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) and signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on September 27, 2006.
4. Rule 1415 of the South Coast Air Quality Management District was designed to reduce emissions of high-global warming potential refrigerants from stationary air conditioning systems by requiring persons subject to this rule to reclaim, recover, or recycle refrigerant and to minimize refrigerant leakage. This rule is applicable to any person who owns or operates an air conditioning system, as defined in this rule. This rule is also applicable to any person who installs, repairs, maintains, services, relocates, or disposes of an air conditioning system; to any person who services or maintains recycling and recovery equipment; and to any person who recycles, recovers, reclaims, or sells high global warming potential refrigerant.
5. Mandatory Reporting of Green House Gasses (40 CFR Part 98): On October 30, 2009, the US Environmental Protection Agency, published a rule for the Mandatory reporting of green house gasses, also referred to as 40 CFR part 98 and referred to as the GHG reporting Program. This comprehensive nationwide, federal data collection program is intended to provide a better understanding of where GHGs are coming from and will guide in the development of Policy and programs to reduce emissions. Direct greenhouse emitters reporting 25,000 metric tons of CO2 emission per year, are required to register and report all emissions including refrigerants. Approximately 10,000 facilities are covered by this rule.
6. Department of Energy 10 CFR, Parts 429 – 430 Energy Conservation Program:Enforcement of Regional Standards for Residential Furnaces and Central Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps. (See Docket EERE 2011-BT-CE – 0077.) Via this stringent protocol and regulatory action, the DOE has entered the refrigerant regulatory environment indirectly by suggesting they can limit or control the types of systems available for sale and the manner they are sold and installed. This is a very new regulatory action and it must be noted that the Department of Energy regulations will have a long and significant impact on the refrigerant industry and they must be considered in every decision that involves investment in climate control equipment.
A Reference Guide
- Hydrofluorocarbons (HFC’s) are organic compounds that contain only one or a few fluorine atoms, are the more common type of organofluorine compounds. Used as refrigerants in place of the older chlorofluorocarbons such as Freon-12, they do not harm the ozone layer if they do not contain chlorine or bromine. However, their atmospheric concentrations are rapidly increasing, causing international concern about a different process. Their rising contribution to anthropogenic radiative forcing emissions.
- Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs): HCFC refers to the chemical composition of the refrigerant. HydroChloro-Fluoro-Carbon indicates that the refrigerant is comprised of Hydrogen, Chlorine, Fluorine, and Carbon. Common HCFC refrigerants are R22.
- Greenhouse Gases (GHG): GHG’s are gases in an atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range.
The rules listed here comprehensively provide a well-structured environment to manage and police the use of refrigerants and climate control equipment. These rules redefine the manner in which decisions need to be made and they also redefine the timeline for amortization and use of equipment.
System owners must know be aware of their responsibilities under each of these requirements, since ignorance or lack of awareness will not absolve the system owner from responsibility to meet the requirements defined in each of these actions. A licensed technician will not be fined for leaks or improper use of refrigerants but may find that they are liable under the Department of Energy actions under 10 CFR.
Historically a system owner may have defined a successful HVACR contract by the price of the bid that may no longer be the case, as most bids presently do not include responsibility to manage and report refrigerants usage or leaks. The stakeholder group impacted by this may not even be engaged in the development of existing solutions and issues such as phantom emission and an inadequate system of controls and/or an inability to actually measure your existing usage.
This guidance document is intended to provide an outline of the problem, offer solutions to address the problems and tools to measure and manage activity in this evolving sector.« Previous | Next »