WASHINGTON — In the first Biden administration rule aimed at combatting climate change, the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to phase down production and use of hydrofluorocarbons, highly potent greenhouse gases commonly used in refrigerators and air conditioners.
The proposed rule follows through on a law Congress passed in December authorizing a 15-year phaseout of HFCs. The new rule is intended to decrease U.S. production and use of the gases by 85% over the next 15 years, part of a global phaseout intended to slow climate change.
HFCs are considered a major driver of global warming and are being targeted worldwide. President Joe Biden has pledged to embrace a 2016 global agreement to reduce HFCs.
“With this proposal, EPA is taking another significant step under President Biden’s ambitious agenda to address the climate crisis,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement Monday. “By phasing down HFCs, which can be hundreds to thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the planet, EPA is taking a major action to help keep global temperature rise in check.”
The phasedown of HFCs is widely supported by the business community, Regan said, and “will help promote American leadership in innovation and manufacturing of new climate-safe products. Put simply, this action is good for our planet and our economy.”
A huge pandemic relief and spending bill passed by Congress in December, and signed by former President Donald Trump, directs EPA to sharply reduce production and use of HFCs. The measure won wide support in both parties and was hailed as the most significant climate change law in at least a decade.
Besides targeting HFCs, the so-called American Innovation and Manufacturing, or AIM Act also promotes technologies to capture and store carbon dioxide produced by power and manufacturing plants and calls for reductions in diesel emissions by buses and other vehicles.
Delaware Sen. Tom Carper, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, praised the EPA rule and said the United States was joining the rest of the world in reducing the use of HFCs, helping to avoid the worst effects of global warming.
“Passing the AIM Act was a momentous climate achievement that will help save our planet, and today we are one step closer to its benefits being a reality,” Carper said.
EPA estimates the proposed rule would save nearly $284 billion over the next three decades and prevent the equivalent of 187 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, roughly equal to annual greenhouse gas emissions from one out of every seven vehicles registered in the United States.
Biden issued an executive order in January that embraces the so-called Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol and directs the State Department to submit it to the Senate for formal ratification. The amendment phases down HFCs globally.