California Banned Chemicals used in Refrigeration Equipment
In March, the California Air Resource Board banned chemicals used in industrial refrigeration equipment that are also a potent greenhouse gas. The chemicals are known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and are a type of refrigerant used in supermarket refrigerators, chilled vending machines, Slurpee machines, frozen yogurt dispensers, and foams used in construction. The chemicals have been found to trap heat in the atmosphere at a rate thousands of times faster than the most common greenhouse gas, which is carbon dioxide. The ban is part of California’s state law requiring a 40 percent reduction from 1990 levels of overall greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the air resources board, said the following when the board announced the ban:
The board’s action today preserves the federal limits on the use of these powerful chemicals and refrigerants, and provides more certainty to industry. We applaud the actions of many industries, which already have made significant investments in developing and using more climate-friendly alternatives.
The Obama administration passed a federal rule in 2015 to phase out HFCs, but two companies that make the chemicals sued the administration. The two companies, Mexichem Fluor and Arkema, argued that the law used to regulate them was intended to phase out chemicals that deplete the ozone layer, not contribute to climate change. In 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia blocked the federal rule, but California air regulators have essentially copied the federal rule at the state level. According to Stanley Young, a spokesman for the air resources board, the new rules in California affect new machines, rather than existing machines. We will have to wait and see if there is any opposition to the ban.