A Federal Appeals Court recently struck down an EPA regulation that would have required manufacturers to replace hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants.
HFC refrigerants like R-410A were brought to market as a replacement for banned- HCFC refrigerants including R-22 which were widely used in HVAC systems. The use of HCFC refrigerants was restricted under the terms of the 1978 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. While HFC refrigerants are not ozone depleting, they do have a high global warming potential and, acting in accordance with the Obama Administration’s Climate Action Plan, EPA claimed authority to issue the rule under the Clean Air Act. The Court ruled that "EPA's authority to regulate ozone-depleting substances under Section 612 and other statutes does not give the EPA authority to order the replacement of substances that are not ozone depleting but that contribute to climate change."
The matter has divided manufacturers who supply equipment to the apartment industry. HVAC industry observers expect that the last word has yet to be written on the use of HFCs, but for now the restriction on the manufacture of HFCs after 2020 has been lifted. Several companies have developed “next generation” refrigerants that are efficient, have lower global warming potential and are less flammable.