An interagency task force charged with preventing illegal imports of hydrofluorocarbons is seeing substantial early success, the Environmental Protection Agency reports.

HFCs are gases used as replacements for ozone-depleting substances in a variety of applications, including refrigeration and air conditioning equipment, foams, aerosols, and fire suppressants, but themselves have significant potential to increase global warming. In September 2021 the EPA issued a final rule that aims to decrease the importation and production of HFCs in the U.S. by 85 percent over the next 15 years.

Among other things, the EPA rule required allowances to import or produce bulk HFCs (but not HFCs contained in manufactured products such as appliances or aerosol cans) beginning Jan. 1, 2022. According to the EPA, since that date the task force has identified, stopped, and caused to be reexported HFC shipments equivalent to approximately 530,000 metric tons of CO emissions that did not have the proper allowances.

“We are fortifying our borders against illegal imports. It’s simple – no allowances, no entry,” said Joe Goffman, principal deputy assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. Lawrence Starfield, acting assistant administrator of the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, added that the EPA “will continue to work in close collaboration with its federal partners to implement a multi-pronged enforcement strategy that includes pursuing civil and criminal violations of the law.”

The EPA notes that violating the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 (the authority for the agency’s final rule) can result in administrative and civil fines as well as injunctive relief and other consequences, including the revocation of allowances. In addition, illegally imported HFCs may be seized by authorities or the importer may be required to reexport or destroy the goods at its own cost. Knowing violations of the AIM Act and related smuggling crimes may result in criminal fines, imprisonment, and other penalties.

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