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Environment & Energy Report

EPA Allows Use of Larger Amounts of Climate-Friendly Coolants

Aug. 7, 2018, 3:20 PM

The EPA is allowing manufacturers to use larger amounts of climate-friendly chemicals in household refrigerators and freezers—eliminating what industry has long identified as a barrier to limiting potent greenhouse gas refrigerants.

The Environmental Protection Agency rule, to be published Aug. 8 in the Federal Register, will allow household appliance manufacturers to use more than double the amount of climate-friendly replacements for a common hydrofluorocarbon, or HFC, refrigerant. HFCs are greenhouse gases hundreds of times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Household refrigeration makers, such as Whirlpool Corp. and Samsung Electronics America Inc., have long asked the EPA to increase the allowable amount of the chemicals, consistent with safety standards updated in spring of 2017 by the standard-setting group Underwriters Laboratories. Without the update, household appliance makers said they would struggle to meet requirements set by a 2016 global deal to phase down HFCs.

That agreement, known as the Kigali Amendment, has broad support from the refrigeration and chemical industries—which have ramped up lobbying in recent months to urge the White House to back the deal. But the Trump administration, including top EPA officials, have thus far resisted publicly supporting the Kigali agreement, which the Senate would have to ratify.

Flammability Concerns

The Aug. 8 rule follows a direct final rule issued by the EPA last fall allowing the larger amount for three climate-friendly HFC alternatives. The agency had to withdraw that action and undertake a formal rulemaking process on the issue after it received comments outlining concerns about the flammability of the chemicals.

The HFC alternatives, such as isobutane and propane, have a lower global warming potential, but some are mildly flammable.

The EPA, in response to those comments, acknowledged the concerns but noted its analysis of the chemicals didn’t show a flammability risk greater than other alternatives already available for use.

“Moreover, EPA is aware of the longstanding widespread use on a global basis of household refrigerators and freezers using this charge limit,” the agency added.

To contact the reporter on this story: Abby Smith in Washington at asmith@bloombergenvironment.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachael Daigle at rdaigle@bloombergenvironment.com

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