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Washington State Passes Climate Bill to Restrict Certain Uses of HFCs

Following California’s lead, Washington State has revived, at the state level, federal limits on greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and is contemplating additional restrictions in the future. HFCs are synthetic gases that are used in a variety of applications, but mainly to replace ozone-depleting substances in aerosols, foams, refrigeration, and air-conditioning. 

In late April, Washington’s legislature passed HB 1112. Governor Inslee signed the bill into law on May 7, 2019. The core section of HB 1112 adopts as state law the content of EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Rules 20 and 21 (40 CFR Part 82, Appx. U and V) before they were largely vacated by the D.C. Circuit in two decisions. See Mexichem Fluor, Inc. v. EPA, 866 F.3d 451 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (vacating Rule 20); Mexichem Fluor, Inc. v. EPA, No. 17-1024 (D.C. Cir. Apr. 5, 2019) (vacating Rule 21). EPA’s SNAP rules determine what chemicals may be used to replace ozone-depleting substances (ODS) for specific end uses, such as vending machine refrigeration. In 2015 and 2016, EPA determined that specific HFCs (which are not ODS but have high global-warming potential) may no longer be used to substitute ODS for several end uses, such as motor vehicle air conditioning, retail food refrigeration, aerosol propellants, and vending machines. Those federal rules were then partially vacated in litigation; the current Administration subsequently suspended the application of SNAP Rule 20 with respect to HFCs entirely and is expected to do the same with respect to Rule 21.

Companies that produce or use HFCs, HFC-containing products or HFC-based refrigerants should carefully review HB 1112 and EPA’s SNAP Rules 20 and 21 to determine if their products or equipment use any listed HFC in any of the regulated end uses.

Washington’s law also sets the stage for further HFC restrictions. Section 8 of HB 1112 requires the Department of Ecology to complete a report by December 1, 2020, that addresses “how to increase the use of refrigerants with a low global warming potential in mobile sources, utility equipment, and consumer appliances, and how to reduce other uses of hydrofluorocarbons in Washington.” Section 9 also requires Ecology to establish purchasing and procurement preferences for non-HFC products. Therefore, even if your specific HFC is not in SNAP Rules 20 or 21, or these rules do not cover your end uses, pay attention to Ecology’s report in 2020 to determine if your equipment or products may be affected by future state programs. Full bill history is available here.

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About this Author

K. Russell LaMotte, Environmental Law Attorney, Beveridge Diamond Law Firm
Principal

Mr. LaMotte helps multinational companies navigate international environmental regulatory regimes and multi-jurisdictional product compliance regulatory matters.  He served for over ten years as an international lawyer at the U.S. Department of State, representing the U.S. Government in designing, negotiating or implementing most of the major multilateral environmental and oceans agreements.  He also served as a clerk for the Hon. Judith Rogers, U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

202-789-6080
Felicia Barnes, Environmental Attorney, Beveridge and Diamond Law Firm, Seattle, Washington
Associate

Felicia maintains a complex litigation and regulatory practice with a particular focus on air issues.

She has advocated for clients on landmark issues in administrative rulemakings and related litigation, particularly in the oil and natural gas sector. Felicia has substantial litigation experience, including appellate litigation and especially before the D.C. Circuit. As part of her regulatory practice, Felicia advises on complex environmental compliance issues, assists with internal investigations and enforcement defense, and evaluates the environmental aspects of complex transactions.

Felicia has represented companies and trade associations across several sectors of the US economy. Her clients have included oil and gas companies, electric utilities, automotive companies, and small family businesses. She has significant experience with Clean Air Act rulemaking and administrative proceedings before the US EPA. She also has substantial D.C. Circuit litigation experience both challenging and defending major Clean Air Act rules that are critical to her clients.

In addition to her work involving the Clean Air Act, she has experience with several major federal environmental statutes, including Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Protection Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Felicia has conducted internal investigations and defended administrative, civil, and criminal enforcement actions involving these and other federal environmental statutes. In these matters, Felicia draws from her substantial regulatory and administrative experience.

Prior to joining the firm, Felicia was part of the environmental team at a major international law firm. She also held two clerkships. The first was for the Honorable Joseph R. Goodwin, Chief Judge, in the Southern District of West Virginia, and the second was for the Honorable Mary Beck Briscoe, Chief Judge, in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. She is admitted to practice before the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit and the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

206.315.4807
Aron H. Schnur, Environmental Attorney, Beveridge Diamond law firm
Associate

Aron Schnur is an Associate in the Baltimore office of Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., with a general environmental, regulatory, and litigation practice.  Mr. Schnur has counseled clients on a variety of federal environmental laws and their state equivalents, including the Clean Air Act (CAA), Clean Water Act (CWA), and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). 

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