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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.

© 2020 Beveridge & Diamond PC National Law Review, Volume IX, Number 143
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K. Russell LaMotte Environmental Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Washington, DC
Principal

Russ helps global companies navigate international environmental regulatory regimes and develop product compliance and market-access strategies.

He served for over ten years as an international lawyer at the United States Department of State, representing the U.S. Government in designing, negotiating, or implementing most of the major multilateral environmental and oceans agreements. His experience and representative matters include: 

Chemicals, Substances in Articles, and Product-Related Environmental Compliance

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Felicia H. Barnes Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Washington, DC
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Felicia Barnes 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...

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Aron H. Schnur Regulatory Compliance Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Baltimore, MD
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Aron looks at every legal issue through the lens of his client's business.

He counsels clients on regulatory compliance and represents them in administrative proceedings and enforcement actions related to air, waste, water, and safety issues. He has experience in a broad array of industry sectors ranging from petroleum refineries to data centers and advises one client in the iron and steel industry on its day-to-day environmental issues affecting several facilities throughout the country.

In the course of advising clients on regulatory issues, Aron has saved companies...

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