The Environmental Protection Agency announced recently several enforcement actions concerning imports of hydrofluorocarbons.

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 by 2036. Among other things, that 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.

In a recent press release the EPA said it has issued the first three notices of violation to alleged violators who imported HFCs without the required allowances. The EPA has also fined three importers $382,473, $275,000, and $247,601, respectively, to settle charges that they failed to report their imported quantities of HFCs and is pursuing similar actions against several other importers.

The EPA added that in fiscal year 2022 the federal interagency task force it belongs to with U.S. Customs and Border Protection prevented illegal HFC imports equal to more than 889,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

The EPA has said that violating the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 (the authority for the agency’s September 2021 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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