While Media Focused on Debates, EPA Quietly Finalized Two Global Warming Regs

By Michael Bastasch Published on September 27, 2016

While media coverage Monday largely focused on the first presidential debate, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized two global warming regulations to ban chemicals used in refrigerators and air conditioners.

EPA unveiled its regulations ahead of next month’s Montreal Protocol meeting, likely as part of the White House’s strategy to issue rules to show other countries the U.S. is serious about fighting global warming.

“These two rules demonstrate the United States’ continued leadership in protecting public health and the environment,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement. “We are reducing emissions of HFCs that are harmful to the climate system and showing the world that we can do this responsibly and thoughtfully by working with businesses and environmental groups.”

The Obama administration has called for countries to expand the United Nations’ agreement to cover hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are commonly used in air conditioners and refrigerators.

EPA’s two new rules increase regulations on household appliances that use HFCs and add “to the list of safer and more climate-friendly chemicals for use in the refrigeration and air conditioning and fire suppression sectors.”

Nearly 200 countries agreed to regulate HFCs in November 2015, and are prepared to meet again in October to discuss how it should actually be done. McCarthy clearly hopes early EPA action will give them leverage with other countries looking to reduce HFCs.

“I’m especially excited that we have taken these actions ahead of next month’s Montreal Protocol negotiations,” McCarthy said.

The Montreal Protocol was a global agreement from 1987 to phase out substances being blamed for depleting the Earth’s ozone layer. The U.S. ratified the treaty in 1988 and has since been working to clamp down on ozone-depleting chemicals.

Now, countries have agreed to regulate HFCs, a substance commonly used in refrigeration, air conditioning, foam and other products. The Obama administration began crafting HFC regulations in October 2015.

The whole point of the Montreal Protocol was to stop ozone layer depletion, and expanding it to HFCs is an interesting step since, well, they don’t contribute ozone-depletion.

Why? According to studies, HFCs lack chlorine, so they don’t eat away at the ozone layer.

The EPA, however, says HFCs need to be regulated because they are 20,000 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

 

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