- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to jettison yet another formerly popular compound used in air conditioners, vending machines and aerosol spray cans, citing its impact on global warming.

In an announcement Thursday, the federal regulatory agency said that it is considering banning certain hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), compounds used in many industrial and consumer products, as part of the Obama administration’s efforts on climate change and finding more environmentally friendly options to chemicals currently in use.

The EPA considers HFCs to be a greenhouse gas, one of several compounds that, when released into the air, can trap carbon dioxide in the planet’s atmosphere and push up global temperatures.

“Today, we are issuing a new proposal that builds on the innovative work businesses across the country have already made to reduce and replace some of the most harmful chemicals with safer, more climate-friendly alternatives that are available and on the market today,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in a statement. “This action will not only result in significant reductions of harmful greenhouse gases, but it will also encourage businesses to continue bringing safer alternatives to market.”

The EPA plans to utilize a provision of the Clean Air Act to shut down HFCs. The act, which was passed in 1970, allows the agency to restrict certain pollutants if there are available alternatives.

If the proposed ban goes through, HFCs would be disallowed in refrigeration units, aerosol propellant products and vehicle air conditioning units. However, the announcement by Ms. McCarthy does not specifically state what future alternatives to HFCs would be utilized in cooling technology.

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In an ironic twist, use of HFCs has increased in the past few decades in response to a public campaign against chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), a compound largely blamed for the disappearance of part of Antarctica’s ozone layer in the 1980s and which was subsequently banned from air conditioning units and certain other products. HFCs were introduced into cooling units around the same time as an alternative to CFCs.

The HFC move is part of the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan. The EPA said the new regulation against HFCs would cut 42 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution in the Earth’s atmosphere by 2020 — the equivalent amount needed to power 5 million homes for an entire year.

The EPA met over the past year with environmentalists and industry groups for input on the HFC proposal. Representatives from the Air-Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Institute, an industry lobbying group, could not be reached by The Washington Times for comment on the impact of the proposal.

The EPA will be accepting public comments on the proposal for 60 days, but one leading environmental group already was on board with the proposed ban.

“The EPA’s welcome move marks another crucial step to curb the growing and serious threat of climate change,” said David Doniger, policy director of the climate and clean air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “With safer coolants and aerosols already on the market, we need to phase out the most damaging HFCs now. The benefits are clear: This will help curb dangerous climate warming, drive innovation in energy efficiency and help fulfill our obligation to leave a better world for our children.”

• Eric Althoff can be reached at twt@washingtontimes.com.

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