Foodservice Equipment Reports

EPA Unveils Refrigerant Phaseout Rules; Roundtable Set For July 29

Two weeks after announcing its decision on phasing out hydrofluorocarbons, the Environmental Protection Agency has published the new rules terminating the use of certain refrigerants commonly used in commercial refrigeration, air conditioning and insulation. The move follows more than a year of speculation since the EPA announced its significant new alternatives policy (SNAP) and subsequent notice of public rulemaking (NOPR).

The final Fact Sheet is here. It summarizes much of the information in the final SNAP ruling, in which the EPA focused on the Global Warming Potential of refrigerants rather than on specific types of equipment. The July 20 Federal Register outlines the full details of the EPA decision; the discussion on and rulings specific to foodservice and retail refrigeration can be found on pages 32-48.

However, the rulings are specifically detailed, defining categories such as stand-alone equipment, low- or medium-temperature equipment, and delineating issues in retrofitting equipment.

For example, the final rule lists the alternatives R-448A and R-449A as acceptable for stand-alone retail refrigeration, but only for low-temperature applications.

NAFEM continues to be a leading voice in the conversation with EPA, and is working on comments to encourage the agency to expand these to medium temperature applications as well.

The EPA’s decision comes despite comments from hundreds of stakeholders protesting 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 mandate to switch to unproven alternatives, according to manufacturers, is likely to interfere with compliance to the efficiency standards for refrigeration equipment previously laid out by the Energy Department—possibly increasing energy use and related emissions and thus proving to be environmentally counterproductive.

The door might not be fully closed on this topic. The EPA says it plans “to continue to monitor the development and deployment of other alternatives as well as their uptake by industries affected by today’s action. If EPA receives new information indicating that other alternatives will not be available by the change of status dates specified, EPA may propose further action to adjust the relevant dates.”

One week from today, on July 29, the Small Business Administration will host an Environmental Roundtable meeting in Washington, D.C., in which the EPA will describe the final rule and related deadlines for substituting new chemicals. Small businesses will present their views. Mary Dane, Refrigeration Task Group Chair for NAFEM, will be among those commenting. The meeting kicks off at 10 a.m. at SBA headquarters, 409 Third Street SW. If interested in attending, RSVP to twaqar@sba.gov

FER Fortnightly has been covering the issue since last year; background on the EPA story can be found here.