After months of hard work by industry stakeholders and government representatives, Sens. John Kennedy (R-Louisiana) and Tom Carper (D-Delaware) introduced The American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act of 2019. The Bipartisan HFC phase-down bill, introduced on November 1, would give the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to regulate HFCs in line with the Kigali Amendment.
Specifically, the bill would:
- Authorise the EPA to set sector-based use restrictions.
- Direct the EPA to establish standards for the management of HFCs used as refrigerants and for the recovery of used substances; and
- Gradually phase down the production and consumption of HFCs through an “allowance allocation and trading programme”.
“The ultimate goal is to ensure a smooth phase-down that doesn’t disrupt jobs and leave the US behind in an emerging global market,” according to Mr Carper and Mr Kennedy.
“The world is moving away from hydrofluorocarbons, and the US is in danger of getting stuck at the starting gate. We want these new refrigerants to be produced in the US, not China,” added Mr Kennedy.
The new legislation, which would authorize a 15-year phase-down of HFCs, would give the business a clear timeline for transitioning to new lower GWP refrigerants and lay the groundwork for a smooth transition to new technologies. This legislation would enable the U.S. to export these new refrigerants, not import them.
Many US companies have already invested billions of dollars to produce and sell next-generation technologies to replace HFCs. The AIM Act builds upon these investments, allowing U.S. companies to grow their manufacturing operations at home.
The legislation has widespread support from the industry. AHRI reported its hope that the Senate will move quickly on this bill, and that the House will follow suit so that this transition can begin.
ACCA also supports the Senate legislation, noting that it is a good start to create a uniform HFC phasedown schedule. ACCA has been advocating for federal legislation, because many states – led by California – are working to create their own HFC phasedown plans. According to ACCA, this will lead to a confusing patchwork of phasedown schedules, regulatory schemes, and other complications when dealing with new refrigerants. A state-by-state approach to the HFC phasedown could also lead to the sale of products to consumers, because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may not have authority to regulate new products since they are non-ozone depleting.
ACCA states that this legislation contains important safety, training, and certification language that would safeguard its members and allow for a safe introduction of mildly flammable refrigerants, which was ACCA’s highest priority in the Senate legislation. ACCA is also working with the House of Representatives on improvements to the Senate legislation, noting that it would like to see detailed language that gives the EPA authority to prohibit the sale of refrigerants to non-certified individuals. ACCA also supports including language that would protect contractors from liability involving accidents caused by new refrigerants.
Will this bill move forward? It’s possible but we will likely have to wait until after the 2020 election and see where the new incoming Congress and President fall. If things stay the same then there will likely not be a Federal HFC phase-down for quite a while within the United States. Instead, individual States will continue to adopt their own HFC phase-downs with each one being just a little bit different.