Proposed Rescinding of EPA’s 2016 Extension Rule
For many years, Section 608 of the Federal Clean Air Act has mandated that anyone who maintains, service/repairs or disposes of appliances that contain certain substances must be certified in the proper handling of certain refrigerants (specifically, those referred to as ozone-depleting substances or ODS).
In 2016, the EPA updated the rule to include non-ozone depleting substitute refrigerants such as hydrofluorocarbons (or HFCs). In other words, if you wanted to purchase or handle ODS or these “substitute” refrigerants, you needed a certification. Other updates included more stringent leak repair requirements and recordkeeping requirements for the disposal of appliances containing 5-50 pounds of refrigerant. There were also some revisions to the technician certification program involved as well as improvements to readability and ease of compliance. The intent was to reduce the emission of ODS and related substances with potentially high global warming dangers. This update to the refrigerant management requirements under the Clean Air Act became effective January 1, 2017.
Fast forward to September 2018. The EPA is now proposing to rescind the controls put in place by the 2016 rule. This proposal affects those who own, service, recycle, or dispose of appliances that contain refrigerants, as well as refrigerant manufacturers and retailers. Interested parties can submit comments via the relevant Federal Register document page (just click the SUBMIT A FORMAL COMMENT button, now through 11/15/18).
What is Being Proposed?
The proposed rule, if finalized, would rescind the leak repair and maintenance requirements of 2016 for substitute refrigerants. Therefore, appliances with 50+ pounds of substitute refrigerants (including HFCs) would not be subject to:
- leak rate calculations when refrigerant is added to an appliance
- repair of appliances that leak above the threshold rate
- required verification tests on repairs
- mandatory leak inspections on appliances that exceed the threshold leak rate
- reporting of chronically leaking appliances to the EPA
- requirement to retrofit or retire appliances that are not repaired
- related recordkeeping
In addition, repealing the 2016 rule would mean lifting the certification requirement for the purchase and/or handling of substitute refrigerants. The proposal does not affect ANY of the requirements for ozone-depleting refrigerants.