Petitions Filed to Eliminate Half of Climate Damaging HFCs in US: EPA Action Sought to Phase Out Use of Super Greenhouse Gas

Apr 26, 2012, 15:17 ET from Environmental Investigation Agency

WASHINGTON, April 26, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As part of an ongoing effort to bring about a global phase-out of HFCs, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has filed a formal petition asking the Environmental Protection Agency to require an end for nearly all uses of the most commonly used fluorocarbon in the U.S., HFC-134a.  The filing seeks to withdraw federal approval for most uses of HFC-134a and was submitted as an adjunct to a previous petition by EIA, NRDC and IGSD seeking replacement of HFC-134a in mobile air conditioning systems in favor of available alternatives that have little or no impact on climate.

Since being initially approved in the 1990s as a replacement for ozone depleting substances (ODS), HFC-134a use has grown to include many other applications besides auto and truck AC systems, and is now the most abundant HFC used in the U.S.  Domestic refrigerators, foam insulation panels, aerosols, tire-inflators and a host of "frivolous uses" including children's toys, keyboard cleaners and air horns that all commonly use HFC-134a despite the wide availability of inexpensive, equally effective and climate–safe alternatives.

HFC-134a has a global warming potential (GWP) of 1430 (making it 1430 times more powerful than CO2 as a greenhouse gas) and represents approximately half of all HFC use in the U.S.  Many countries already use or require the use of low-GWP alternatives to HFCs, e.g., an estimated one billion+ refrigerators in the EU and Asia run on hydrocarbons (GWP <25) rather than HFCs.  Although hydrocarbons received EPA approval for use in the U.S. in January, no timetable has yet been established to require their use in domestic refrigerators and freezers or retail stand-alone coolers and freezers.

"Technology has advanced to the extent that HFCs are rapidly becoming obsolete", said Mark W. Roberts, Senior Legal Counsel for EIA.  He added, "The increasing availability of low-impact and equally or even superior energy efficient alternatives requires action to phase-out the use of compounds that needlessly contribute to climate change".

HFCs are the fastest growing class of GHGs and best scientific studies estimate that left unchecked they could annually contribute up to 20% as much to global warming by 2050 as CO2.  In response, amendment proposals have been submitted every year since 2009 by Micronesia, and by Canada, Mexico and the USA seeking a global phase-down of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol. 

The Montreal Protocol is widely regarded as the most successful environmental accord in history as well as the most successful climate treaty.  Its efforts to eliminate ODS have already halted the destruction of the Earth's ozone layer and because ODS are also powerful GHGs, the ODS phase-outs have also delayed the onset of acute climate change by more than a decade.

"The United States has demonstrated exemplary leadership and vision in its efforts to control ozone depleting substances and HFCs on a global level", according to Samuel LaBudde, EIA's Senior Atmospheric Campaigner.  "U.S. action to phase out HFCs at home is appropriate if not overdue, and will only reinforce the prospect for eliminating HFCs worldwide."

An HFC phase-out under the Montreal Protocol would prevent the equivalent of three years of total fossil fuel emissions from being released and essentially eliminate one of the six classes of greenhouse gases.  A recent study commissioned by the EU indicated that HFCs could be eliminated within 13 of the 22 major use sectors by 2020, and in all sectors by 2030.  Under EIA's petition to the EPA, as well as the HFC Amendment Proposals, essential-uses like metered dose inhalers and other medical applications that utilize HFCs would be exempted.  General Motors has already committed to eliminating HFCs from new models beginning in 2013, and the Consumer Goods Forum that represents over 600 of the world's largest retailers has committed to eliminate HFCs in new refrigeration equipment beginning n 2015.

To view the HFC-134a petition, or for more on HFCs, ODS and the Montreal Protocol:, or contact:

Mark Roberts +1 978 298-5705

Samuel LaBudde +1 415 632-7174

SOURCE Environmental Investigation Agency