Foodservice Equipment Reports

House Chair Questions EPA On Refrigerant Phaseout Proposal

The ongoing discussion over the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed ban on certain refrigerants and how the rule would hurt small businesses, manufacturers and restaurants has spurred resistance not only in the affected industries but also on the House subcommittee reviewing the proposal.

The agency has proposed to prohibit several substances commonly used in commercial refrigeration, automotive air conditioning and insulation as part of the administration’s Climate Action Plan. For commercial refrigeration, the proposed ban would take effect Jan. 1, 2016. For other sectors addressed by the rule, the EPA also has proposed highly accelerated timelines. With assistance from our friends at NAFEM, FER Fortnightly has been covering the issue since last year; background on the story can be found here.

Earlier this month, the chairman of the House Energy and Power Subcommittee wrote to the EPA requesting information related to the legality, cost and feasibility of the agency’s proposed rule banning certain refrigerants. Committee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) referred to the proposal as counterproductive and onerous to refrigeration manufacturers, whom, he noted, are near unanimous in agreeing that replacing HFCs as refrigerants by the January 2016 deadline is impossible. Manufacturers had previously switched to refrigerants under the government’s 1994 Significant New Alternatives Policy program (SNAP), and, Whitfield points out, under this new ban, those previously approved replacements would be phased out. “The proposed rule seeking to delist HFCs based on their global-warming potential does not appear to be authorized under the Clean Air Act,” he adds.

Hundreds of manufacturers have spoken up on the near-impossibility of meeting the proposed deadlines as well as the high costs and potential risks of using alternative compounds, many of which are flammable. Manufacturers are not the only ones impacted; more than a million restaurants and other small businesses rely on equipment affected by the proposed rule, and many have raised serious concerns about costs and safety.

The proposed rule’s mandate to switch to unproven alternatives is likely to interfere with compliance to the efficiency standards for refrigeration equipment laid out by the U.S. Department of Energy—possibly increasing energy use and related emissions and thus proving to be environmentally counterproductive.

To read the letter to the EPA, click here.

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