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EPA Proposes New Aerosol Regulations

After years of nudging from environmentalists, the Environmental Protection Agency might be making changes to how it lists certain types of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) blended into aerosols.

The agency is proposing changing “listings from acceptable to unacceptable” for certain HFCs present in “aerosol, foam blowing, and air conditioning and refrigerant end-uses” where there are potential alternatives that lower the risk to global warming.

Since HFCs are present in vehicles, vending machines, refrigerators, air conditioners and much more equipment. Given the sweeping nature of this rule, a whole host of businesses could be affected, including bakeries, liquor stores and casinos — basically anywhere with air conditioning, vending machines or refrigerators.

The EPA has been regulating HFCs and other “ozone-deteriorating” chemicals under its Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program for the past twenty years. In that time they have changed which substances are “acceptable” or “unacceptable” to blend into aerosols and use in everyday equipment based on the potential alternatives available.

But since late 2009, the EPA has had to consider the global warming potential (GWP) of “ozone-depleting” chemicals after the agency found in December of that year that greenhouse gases, like HFCs, were harmful to human health because they cause global warming.

While HFCs make up only a small portion of the greenhouse gases emitted by humans, the EPA says they are 20,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide — the most common man-made greenhouse gas — and can stay in the atmosphere for up to 250 years.

The EPA says global HFC levels have increased 10 to 15 percent annually and emissions are projected to double by 2020 and triple by 2030. The EPA projects its new rule will reduce HFC emissions 31 to 42 million metric tons in 2020.

The hope is that the new rule will slow global warming. As the EPA notes, however, HFC levels have been increasing faster than any other greenhouse gas, but as HFC levels rise along with other greenhouse gas levels global temperatures have not risen in nearly two decades.

“[T]here has been no global warming – none at all – for 17 years 10 months,” writes Christopher Monckton, a famed climate skeptic and the third Viscount Monckton of Brenchley. “This is the longest continuous period without any warming in the global instrumental temperature record since the satellites first watched in 1979.”

“It has endured for more than half the entire satellite temperature record,” Monckton added. “Yet the lengthening Pause coincides with a continuing, rapid increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration.”

The EPA, however, is determined to carry out President Obama’s Climate Action Plan which calls for reducing HFCs in order to stem global warming. The agency says its rule “is part of our domestic commitment to take action now and, by doing so, also supporting efforts to secure a global HFC phasedown.”

“For the past five years, the United States, Canada, and Mexico have proposed an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs. Global benefits of the proposal would yield significant reductions of over 90 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent… through 2050,” the EPA says. “The United States,the European Union, Japan and other countries are all taking actions that will promote the uptake of low-GWP alternatives and reduce use and emissions of high-GWP HFCs.”

The rulemaking is also in response to three petitions sent by environmental groups over the last few years, urging the EPA to phase out certain kinds of HFCs. Petitions were sent by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development and the Environmental Investigation Agency.

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