WASHINGTON – Today [Jan. 29, 2024], EPA is announcing a settlement with Open Mountain Energy, LLC, a geothermal power generation company, for the attempted illegal import of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which is the latest in a series of enforcement actions EPA has taken recently against importers of HFCs. HFCs are a super climate pollutant with global warming potentials hundreds to thousands of times higher than CO2. For this reason, pursuant to the Montreal Protocol, HFCs will be almost fully phased out by developed countries by 2036. EPA has made it a national enforcement and compliance priority to address the illegal import of HFCs under the current phasedown and has settled five cases over the last several months with companies regarding HFC imports.
“Climate change continues to accelerate, which makes addressing super climate pollutants like HFCs a key part of EPA’s strategy to limit global climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” said Assistant Administrator David M. Uhlmann for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Our HFC enforcement efforts send a clear message to HFC importers that the federal government is vigilantly monitoring imports of HFCs and will hold illegal actors accountable.”
In EPA’s enforcement case with Open Mountain Energy, LLC, EPA prevented 44,092 pounds, or approximately 20 metric tons, of illegal hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) from being imported into the U.S. If released into the atmosphere, these HFCs are the equivalent of 20,600 metric tons of CO2, or the same amount of CO2 produced from powering 4,008 homes with electricity produced from coal for a year. Under the terms of the settlement, the company will pay a penalty of $41,566.
In a second case, EPA took enforcement action through its HFC Expedited Settlement Agreement Pilot Program. Earlier last month, EPA finalized its first Expedited Settlement Agreement with Sigma Air, LLC, for the attempted illegal import of 3,736 pounds of R-410A, a blend of different HFCs. The company will remain on EPA’s watch list for repeat offenses. This pilot program can be used to quickly address smaller quantities of illegally imported HFCs, with an appropriate penalty to assure would[-]be violators are adequately punished and deterred.
Achieving the goals of the HFC phasedown also requires accurate data. In addition to preventing illegal imports of HFCs, EPA is also using its enforcement authorities to target HFC importers that failed to accurately report their import quantities to EPA. Three recent settlements show how EPA enforcement actions are helping ensure accurate data, essential for setting sound climate change policy, such as setting baseline and targets for the HFC Phasedown rule. The combined penalties paid in these cases against Combs Investment Property, LP; Waysmos USA, Inc.; and Nature Gas Import and Export Inc., exceed $500,000. EPA will continue to scrutinize the reporting data to ensure the Agency and the public have the best data available to make informed decisions on fighting climate change.
The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, adopted by the United Nations in 2016, requires the global phasedown of HFCs by 2036 for the United States and other developed countries.
In response to the Kigali Amendment, Congress passed the bipartisan American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 (AIM Act), requiring the United States to phase down HFC production and consumption by 85% by 2036. Over the past year, EPA and CBP denied entry to approximately 25 shipments of illegal HFCs. Under EPA’s HFC phasedown regulations, importers must expend allowances to import HFCs. Illegal imports of HFCs undermine the phasedown, disadvantage companies who follow the rules, and contribute to global warming.
More information related to HFCs, greenhouse gases, the AIM Act, and the climate change National Enforcement and Compliance Initiative are available on EPA’s website:
- Enforcement of the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program: HFC Importers web page.
- Enforcement of the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 web page.
- Fiscal Years 2024 – 2027 National Enforcement and Compliance Initiatives (NECIs) web page.
- Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP) web page.
- Protection [sic] our Climate by Reducing Use of HFCs website.
If you suspect someone is illegally importing HFCs, tell EPA at its Report Environmental Violations website. Information you submit will be forwarded to EPA environmental enforcement personnel or to the appropriate regulatory authority.
Source: “EPA Enforcement Prevents Multiple Illegal Imports of Super Climate Pollutant,” Jan. 29, 2024 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency press release.
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