Background

The Department of Homeland Security and the Environmental Protection Agency have announced a new interagency task force that will guard against the illegal importation  of hydrofluorocarbons. 

HFCs are gases used as replacements for ozone-depleting substances in a variety of applications but themselves have significant potential to increase global warming. The EPA has approved a final rule (expected to be published soon in the Federal Register) that aims to decrease the importation and production of HFCs in the U.S. by 85 percent over the next 15 years. Specific provisions of this rule include the following.

- sets HFC production and consumption baseline levels from which reductions will be made

- requires allowances to import or produce bulk HFCs beginning Jan. 1, 2022 (allowances will not be needed to import HFCs contained in manufactured products such as appliances or aerosol cans)

- establishes an initial methodology for allocating allowances for 2022 and 2023 for companies that imported and/or produced HFCs in 2020

- sets aside some allowances for small importers

- allows the transfer of allowances between companies and internationally

- establishes an electronic tracking system for the movement of HFCs through commerce

- establishes administrative consequences (e.g., revocation or retirement of allowances) for noncompliance that will be in addition to any civil and criminal enforcement action

- establishes recordkeeping and reporting, third-party auditing, and data transparency requirements

Companies that import, export, produce, destroy, reclaim, package, or otherwise distribute HFCs may be affected by this rule. Companies using HFCs to manufacture refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment, foams, aerosols, and fire suppressants may also be affected.

The EPA said that as part of a “whole-of-government approach to prevent the illegal trade, production, use, or sale of HFCs” it will work with DHS agencies including U.S. Customs and Border Protection to stop illegal HFC imports, including by preventing the exploitation of U.S. customs laws. DHS noted that this effort will build on the two agencies’ “long-standing, successful collaboration” on “preventing illegal imports that threaten the environment, including imports of ozone-depleting substances and vehicles that fail to comply with Clean Air Act standards.”

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