Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are a category of gases used primarily as refrigerants in a variety of commercial and industrial applications. HFCs are among the greenhouse gases (GHGs) identified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Ecology (Ecology) as a result of their capacity to trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere.
In 2019, the Legislature enacted restrictions on the use of HFCs and other ozone-depleting substance (ODS) substitutes in products and equipment. In 2021, the Legislature authorized Ecology to establish a maximum global warming potential (GWP) threshold for ODS substitutes in new stationary air conditioning and stationary refrigeration, and directed Ecology to establish a maximum GWP threshold for new equipment used in ice rinks. The 2021 legislation also directed Ecology to establish a refrigerant management program to address refrigerant emissions from large air conditioning and refrigeration systems, and established other measures to reduce GHG emissions from ODS substitutes.
Ecology may adopt rules that establish a process and criteria for granting variances from HFC and ODS substitute product and equipment restrictions if it determines that supply chain problems impair the ability of persons to comply with the requirements.
The committee recommended a different version of the bill than what was heard. PRO: This bill came out of situations that arose during the pandemic with supply chain issues that occurred. A company that builds insulated pipe used in research facilities and hospitals couldn’t get the product they needed built to the customer due to HFC restrictions. Ecology worked with them to provide flexibility to produce the product for a while but they reached a point where they said they had no more statutory flexibility. The bill gives Ecology a little more flexibility to accommodate product manufacturers when supply chain issues occur.
OTHER: We have recommendations for a small amendment to address some issues. We think the intent of the bill is to give Ecology new authority to grant variances for product prohibitions. However, as written it allows a variance for any of the HFC programs, including the refrigerant management program. The amendment would narrow this to the product restrictions.