California HFC Ban Begins to Take Effect January 1, 2019

Environmental Impact
The August 2017 federal court decision on HFC bans, formerly known as Mexichem Fluor Inc. v. EPA, provoked considerable regulatory uncertainty in the HVAC-R world. And, today, you’re probably still adjusting to the aftermath, and you may even have some lingering confusion. Importantly, in the wake of all this, the state of California advanced new CARB refrigerant regulations.

Specifically, in this blog post, we are going to bring your attention to the California HFC ban, especially since some parts of it already took effect on January 1, 2019.

California HFC Ban Provides Some Sense of Certainty

First, the fact of the matter is, HFC regulations (or lack thereof) have gotten a little more complicated over the past year and a half, and, meanwhile, you’ve probably been left to fill in the missing bits and pieces.

For example, a question like “Are HFCs banned?,” that was once thought easy to answer now leaves you second guessing yourself… And rightfully so. On the one hand, you’ve got the partial vacatur of SNAP Rule 20 at the federal level; On the other hand, you’ve got several states, particularly California, who have introduced or are introducing their own HFC initiatives.

Truly, when it comes to questions on HFC prohibitions, the answer is it depends—on the where (i.e., federal or state level) and on the when (i.e., phase out dates if applicable).

And right now, the state of California is paving its own path with the California Cooling Act, a California HFC regulation that essentially preserves the HFC bans that were vacated at the federal level.

The California Cooling Act Explained

Signed into law on September 13, 2018, the California Cooling Act (Senate Bill 1013) notably preserves the HFC bans found in SNAP Rule 20 and SNAP Rule 21.

A lot of terms are thrown around here, so you’re probably wondering what this really means.

Well, here’s the gist: Appendix U of Subpart G of 40 C.F.R. Part 82 lists the unacceptable substitutes and substitutes subject to use restrictions listed in the EPA’s July 20, 2015 Final Rule (i.e., SNAP Rule 20). For a good overview, you can find the EPA’s original Fact Sheet for SNAP Rule 20 here.

And, Appendix V of Subpart G of 40 C.F.R. Part 82 lists the substitutes subject to use restrictions and unacceptable substitutes listed in EPA’s December 1, 2016 Final Rule (i.e., SNAP Rule 21). The EPA’s Fact Sheet for SNAP Rule 21 is here.

Now, here’s where things get more tricky: The HFC bans that California has adopted do not necessarily have the same effective dates as the original SNAP 20 and 21 Rules.

For instance, the California Cooling Act makes a special clarification for residential consumer refrigeration products, stating twofold:

  1. “Prohibitions on residential consumer refrigeration products, except compact and built-in residential consumer refrigeration products, shall take effect January 1, 2022,” and
  2. “Prohibitions on built-in residential consumer refrigeration products shall take effect on January 1, 2023.”

That is, the Act gets a little more granular when it comes to the HFC prohibitions in the residential refrigeration appliances sector and therefore has different effective dates of unacceptability from that of SNAP Rule 21.

Indeed, SNAP Rule 21, which contains HFC prohibitions for household refrigerators and freezers (new), does not make a differentiation between compact, non- compact or built-in, and built in appliances. This is but one example. To get a full glimpse of the HFC bans in California, check out this Fact Sheet here.

In fact, the point here is, the California HFC bans don’t exactly follow the effective dates of unacceptability found in EPA SNAP Rules 20 and 21.

Along similar lines, there is one major change worth noting when it comes to California HFC bans: Many of the dates for when they become effective have changed from the original SNAP Rule 20.

California HFC Ban Doesn’t Exactly Follow Compliance Dates from SNAP Rules

You see, SNAP Rule 20 originally had some HFC substitutes unacceptable in the retail food refrigeration sector as of July 20, 2016; January 1, 2017; and January 1, 2018. At first, this may seem confusing, especially in consideration to what was said above about the California Cooling Act adopting the prohibitions of SNAP Rules 20 and 21.

Well, here’s the thing that’ll help you get the complete picture: In addition to the California Cooling Act, there is another California HFC regulation that impacts HFC prohibitions. It’s CARB’s “Prohibitions on Use of Certain Hydrofluorocarbons in Stationary Refrigeration and Foam End-Uses,” which you can find here.

In this Final Regulation Order, you’ll see the adoption of SNAP Rule 20’s HFC bans in the refrigeration (i.e., retail food refrigeration equipment and vending machines) and the foams sector. Not to mention, you’ll also see the new effective dates for some of the end-uses from SNAP Rule 20, particularly those (supermarket systems, remote condensing units, and stand-alone units) with effective dates that are in the past.

To put it simply, any of the HFC bans from SNAP Rule 20 with effective dates in the past now have effective dates of January 1, 2019 per this CARB HFC regulation.

Retail Food Refrigeration Equipment Impacted Starting January 1, 2019

Moreover, the sector that is most impacted by this new California HFC regulation is retail food refrigeration. Supermarket systems (new and retrofit), remote condensing units (new and retrofit), and some stand-alone units (new and retrofit) now have HFC bans with effective dates of January 1, 2019.

Most importantly, CARB makes it clear that “the effective dates provided refer to the date the aerosol, foam, or equipment was manufactured.”

Furthermore, in a bulletin dated December 4, 2018, the California Air Resources Board provides further clarity: “Under this new law, manufacturers cannot sell equipment or products which use prohibited HFCs that are manufactured after their respective prohibition dates. The compliance dates vary by end-use and for new versus retrofit equipment.”

Of course, for those not affected by this January 1, 2019, compliance date, you still have a little more time to figure this all out. But, just note, there are other compliance dates right around the corner, including January 1, 2020, and January 1, 2021.

That concludes our post with the latest on the California HFC ban. If you would like to stay up to date on the California HFC phase down and topics around this, be sure to subscribe to our blog. 


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