Members of Congress Urge EPA Administrator McCarthy to Reduce Use of Harmful Climate Change-Causing Pollutant

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WASHINGTON – Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Clean Air, and Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52), led a group of 16 lawmakers who signed a letter in a bicameral effort urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy to use the agency’s authority to reduce the use of hydrofluorocarbon (HFCs) compounds which could account for approximately 20 percent of greenhouse gas pollution by 2050. Signers of the letter included Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52), Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Cal.), Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Cal.), Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), Rep. Anna Eshoo (CA-18), Rep. Susan Davis (CA-53), Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA-17), Rep. Paul Tonko (NY-20), Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01).

“We are writing to ask your agency to pursue commonsense policies that accelerate the replacement phase down of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in this country and globally.  We believe the agency can ensure we continue to have affordable, safe refrigeration and air conditioning, while also driving greenhouse gas emissions down…Recognizing that it may take some time to amend the Montreal Protocol and incorporate those changes into US regulations, we believe the EPA does not need to wait to implement smart policies that can help accelerate these transitions in the United States and globally.  We encourage you to focus your agency on HFC applications where technology solutions and alternative products are already available or soon to be in the market, similar to what the European Union has done with their Mobile Air Conditioning Directive.  The agency should look to where market transitions are already underway and where EPA action could hasten the pace of those transitions, both domestically and elsewhere. We think that such actions would not only have significant cost-effective environmental benefits but would also strengthen the Administration’s hand in the Montreal Protocol negotiations.”

To view a copy of the letter, please click here[1].

The Montreal Protocol is an example of a very successful multi-national environmental initiative.  Since the United States ratified the Protocol in 1988 there has been a 97% reduction in the global consumption of controlled ozone-depleting substances such as those found in our refrigerants, aerosols and solvents. However, a majority of the ozone-depleting substances are being replaced by hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) compounds. HFCs are easy to use, efficient and are safe for the ozone but they can have a high potential to contribute to global warming.  If global use of HFCs continues to go unchecked, it is estimated that HFCs could account for approximately 20% of greenhouse gas pollution by 2050. In response to this problem, the United States had proposed an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to include a phasedown for HFCs along with the other refrigerant gases already regulated under the Protocol.  While there has been some momentum to amend the Montreal Protocol – such as recent agreements between China and the United States — some in the international community are still resisting moving forward to amend the Protocol.  As the international negotiations continue, there are commonsense steps the EPA can take now to start the phaseout of HFCs, helping our environment and sending a powerful signal to the international community that the United States is serious about transitioning away from HFCs.  This letter supports the Administration’s efforts to use the Montreal Protocol and urges the EPA to use their authority to start phasing out HFCs where there is a clear alternative.

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A copy of the letter text follows:

The Honorable Gina McCarthy

Administrator

Environmental Protection Agency

Ariel Rios Federal Building

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Room 3000

Washington, DC 20460

Dear Administrator McCarthy,

We are writing to ask your agency to pursue commonsense policies that accelerate the replacement phase down of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in this country and globally.  We believe the agency can ensure we continue to have affordable, safe refrigeration and air conditioning, while also driving greenhouse gas emissions down.

Since its ratification in 1989, the Montreal Protocol has been an example of a highly successful multi-national environmental initiative.  Under the Montreal Protocol, U.S. corporations and corporations in participating countries agreed to replace ozone depleting products –  such as Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and Hydrofluorocarbons (HCFCs) – used globally used in refrigerants, aerosols and solvents.  As a result, we have seen a 97% reduction in the global consumption of controlled ozone depleting substances. 

Today, most countries are choosing to replace CFCs and HCFCs with HFC compounds because HFCs have been found to be a safe and efficient alternative.  The United States has already made the transition to HFCs, meaning HFCs are now used in a majority of our air conditioners and refrigerants found in our homes, cars, hospitals, and supermarkets.  Developing countries participating in the Montreal Protocol are now starting to make their transitions – ramping up their use of HFCs.  As a result, the global use of HFCs is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years.  The increased HFC use is good for the ozone layer, but evidently not good for our climate.  Unfortunately, it is now determined that HFC compounds can have a very high global warming potential.  Should their use go unchecked, it is estimated that HFCs could account for approximately 20 percent of greenhouse gas pollution by 2050.  So by using HFCs, we are addressing one global environmental problem, while contributing to another. 

Our experience with the Montreal Protocol has shown the global community can work together to save the environment without disrupting the market place.  That is why using the Montreal Protocol regime to transition the global use of HFCs to materials that are safe for the ozone and safe for our climate makes sense and why we applaud the Administration’s efforts to do so.  We believe this process will give our country and the world the most flexibility and cost-effective path toward reducing HFCs.

As we wait for global action, some sectors in this country and in other countries are already beginning to transition away from HFCs, influenced by regulation, voluntary programs and a growing suite of alternatives.  For example, many home refrigerators and window air conditioning units have [largely] changed over to hydrocarbon refrigerants. Transitions are also being seen in vending machines, supermarkets, motor vehicle air conditioning, and insulating foams.  It is estimated that the new system will reduce the store’s carbon footprint by 3.4 million pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent every year and will save the store money in the long run in repair and energy costs.  Not all sectors have a clear transition, but for some sectors there are clear, safe alternatives to HFCs. 

Recognizing that it may take some time to amend the Montreal Protocol and incorporate those changes into US regulations, we believe the EPA does not need to wait to implement smart policies that can help accelerate these transitions in the United States and globally.  We encourage you to focus your agency on HFC applications where technology solutions and alternative products are already available or soon to be in the market, similar to what the European Union has done with their Mobile Air Conditioning Directive.  The agency should look to where market transitions are already underway – like in Turner, Maine – and where EPA action could hasten the pace of those transitions, both domestically and elsewhere. We think that such actions would not only have significant cost-effective environmental benefits but would also strengthen the Administration’s hand in the Montreal Protocol negotiations.

Thank you for your efforts in this area and we look forward to working with you on this issue in the future.

References

  1. ^ here (www.carper.senate.gov)

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