In December of 2020, the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act of 2020 was enacted, which gives the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) new regulatory authorities to address HFC refrigerants.
The AIM Act is a major shift for HFC refrigerant management. In fact, the AIM Act could completely change how you manage HFC refrigerants in the near-term.
As such, this post will provide an introduction to the AIM Act; an overview of the EPA’s new authorities; and how you and your team should prepare.
The AIM Act: A New HFC Phasedown Law
Part of the pandemic relief package included bipartisan energy provisions, one of which was the AIM Act, a new HFC phasedown law.
This law had widespread support amongst diverse groups of stakeholders, including private companies and environmental nonprofits. Learn what they said about the AIM Act, including from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, ASHRAE, and more.
Much of this support can be attributed to the fact that the AIM Act provides much-needed and long-awaited certainty to the future of HFC use and ascent of the next generation of refrigerants.
The law gives the EPA the authority to control and manage HFC refrigerants in three new regulatory programs:
- Phase down the production and consumption of HFCs;
- Manage HFCs; and
- Facilitate the transition to next-generation technologies.
We will provide an overview of the EPA’s three new authorities for HFCs in the next sections.
1) HFC phase down of production and consumption
First, the law sets out to phase down the production and consumption of regulated substances. Regulated substances include popular refrigerants, such as R-134a, R-125, R-32, and R-143a.
Each of the following refrigerants, and any isomers of such a substance, are a regulated substance:
There is a bit of a caveat for HFC refrigerant blends, as the law has a provision that states:
“Nothing in this paragraph authorizes the Administrator to designate as a regulated substance a blend of substances that includes a saturated hydrofluorocarbon for purposes of phasing down production or consumption of regulated substances.”
What this means is, HFC blends are not considered regulated substances for the purposes of phasing down production and consumption of HFCs.
Nonetheless, it goes on to state that this provision “does not affect the authority of the Administrator to regulate under this Act a regulated substance within a blend of substances.” So end-users with HFC blends, such as R-410A, R-407c, and R-404A, will be impacted. (Think SNAP Rules 20 and 21. See section #2.)
Moving right along, the regulated substances will have production and consumption phasedowns established by the U.S. EPA.
2021 Statutory Deadline: Less Than Six Months Away
In fact, the law stipulates a crucial 2021 statutory deadline.
That is, no later than 270 days after enactment of the AIM Act, the EPA shall issue a final rule that phases down the production and consumption of regulated substances through an allowance allocation and trading program in accordance to the table seen below (Table 2).
Thus, if you’re wondering, 270 days from enactment of the AIM Act is September 23, 2021. We’re essentially less than six months away from a major shift in HFC refrigerant policy. Now is the time to prepare.
2) HFC Refrigerant Management
The second new regulatory authority the EPA has with the AIM Act is management of HFCs.
The law states that the EPA “shall promulgate regulations to control, where appropriate, any practice, process, or activity regarding the servicing, repair, disposal, or installation of equipment.”
As such, we could see new regulations or expansions of regulatory programs already in place, such as EPA Section 608 and the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Program.
3) Transition to Next-Generation Technologies
The third and final new regulatory program to talk about is the transition to next-generation technologies.
The AIM Act establishes small business technology grants to facilitate the transition to next-generation technologies.
While subject to appropriations, these grants are for small businesses to purchase recycling, recovery, or reclamation equipment for HFC substitute refrigerants, like R-1234yf.
Start Preparing for the Phasedown Now
Well, that concludes our overview of the AIM Act. In essence, HFC refrigerants will be phased down by 85% over the next 15 years.
Do you have any questions about what this could mean for HFC refrigerant management or just want to learn more about it? Let me know by leaving a comment. As always, thanks for reading.
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