US states sue EPA for rescinding HFC bans

US states sue EPA for rescinding HFC bans

The attorney generals from eleven US states have filed suit against the EPA for “effectively rescinding” regulations prohibiting the use of HFC refrigerants.

The coalition argues that the EPA violated the federal Clean Air Act when it issued a “guidance,” document rather than a public rulemaking process, as required by the law. Lifting limits on the use of HFCs, they say, will damage efforts to combat climate change.

New York attorney general Barbara D Underwood is leading a coalition of attorneys generals from California, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

The US EPA’s plans announced in 2015 to limit the use of HFCs were overturned by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia after a legal case led by refrigerant manufacturers Mexichem.

The coalition maintains that in coming to its decision, the US Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed EPA’s legal authority to designate HFCs as prohibited replacements for ozone-depleting substances.

“However, in a split decision, the court also ruled that the Agency lacked authority to require a manufacturer that has already replaced an ozone-depleting substance with HFCs to switch to a safer alternative,” it says. “The court partially vacated the rule – solely with respect to this requirement – and remanded it back to EPA.”

In April of this year, EPA Administrator Pruitt issued a document, styled as “guidance,” that effectively rescinded the 2015 rule in its entirety. “That guidance,” the coalition says, “was issued without public notice and opportunity for comment, states that the Agency is voiding the HFC limits adopted in the 2015 rule “in their entirety” – including those affirmed by the DC Circuit court.”

The lawsuit, filed in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Wednesday, charges that Pruitt’s use of guidance to rescind the 2015 rule violates the Clean Air Act.

“Under the Act, the guidance is a substantive rule that required public notice and comment prior to being finalised,” the coalition says.

“The Trump EPA is seeking to gut critical climate protection rules through the backdoor – once again endangering New Yorkers while thumbing their nose at the law,” attorney general Underwood said. “My office will continue to fight back against the Trump Administration’s brazen disregard for rule of law, and the health, safety, and welfare of New Yorkers.”

On Monday, refrigerant manufacturers Chemours and Honeywell and green group NRDC took the case to the US Supreme Court asking for a review of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals decision to block EPA bans on HFCs.