Foodservice Equipment Reports

EPA Asks Mission Impossible

Phasing out refrigerants and chemicals deemed harmful to the environment has been an ongoing issue for refrigeration equipment makers for more than 20 years. Today, the industry is facing the most sweeping, most accelerated and, according to NAFEM, most impossible-to-achieve change ever considered. 

A proposed rule announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Aug. 6 would terminate the use of certain hydrofluorocarbons with high global-warming potential (GWP). The EPA’s proposal would phase out all currently used refrigerants by Jan. 1, 2016, and leave only a handful of options for keeping food cold. None of the suggested replacement refrigerants is ideal; all are either flammable, dangerous or create difficult design challenges.

The overriding issue, however, is the 2016 compliance date, which NAFEM and refrigeration manufacturers say is unrealistic and unworkable. NAFEM has been deeply involved with discussions on the proposed status change, urging the EPA to consider the technical and economic feasibility of the transition as well as creating a realistic timetable for it.

NAFEM maintains that, at a minimum, the EPA should consider extending the compliance time to accommodate small businesses because a manufacturer with hundreds of models could require at least 10 years to bring new models to market that are compliant with the EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy. 

NAFEM met with the SNAP team in April and had seats at the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Advocacy Environmental Roundtable in August. The NAFEM delegation, led by Refrigeration Task Group Leader Mary Dane, agency approval engineer at Traulsen, requested that the timeframe for the changeover be set for 2025.

“Government authorities, especially the SBA Office of Advocacy, have counseled us that government needs to hear from a broader group of stakeholders,” says Charlie Souhrada, NAFEM’s director-member services. Because these issues impact all parts of the channel, NAFEM encourages consultants, dealers, reps, servicers and, ideally, operators to weigh in, too. “This may be a challenge for smaller organizations that don’t have compliance/technical engineers; this is why we provided a list of points to consider in the SNAP issue.” (Go to bit.ly/1ldl9oq.)

The EPA is developing final regulations for its low-GWP-refrigerants rule, so the clock is ticking. Get involved and contact Souhrada at csouhrada@nafem.org.

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