The Interagency Task Force on Illegal Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) Trade in the United States has prevented illegal HFC shipments equivalent to approximately 530,000 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions over the past 10 weeks.
At its inaugural meeting this week, the taskforce said the 530,000 metric tonnes is equivalent to emissions from nearly 100,000 homes’ electricity use in one year.
As of January 1, 2022, when the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s HFC Allowance Allocation and Trading program went into effect, the import of HFCs require allowances.
Shipments coming to US ports without proper allowances have been identified, stopped, and re-exported.
In September of 2021, the task force was established when the EPA issued a final rule initiating a comprehensive program to cap and phase down the production and consumption of climate-damaging HFCs in the United States, the potent greenhouse gases commonly used in refrigeration and air conditioning equipment.
A global phasedown of HFCs is expected to avoid up to 0.5 °C of global warming by 2100.
The HFC phasedown is projected to avoid approximately 4.6 billion metric tonnes of CO2 from 2022 – 2050 in the United States, or nearly equal to three years’ worth of US power sector emissions at 2019 levels.
The task force helps ensure the vast environmental benefits of the rule are realized by detecting, deterring, and disrupting any attempts to illegally import HFCs into the United States.
Principal deputy assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, Joe Goffman, said the taskforce is sending a clear message to potential violators that the US is fortifying its borders against illegal imports.
He said strict enforcement of the HFC allowance program ensures that US efforts to phase down these climate-damaging chemicals are successful.
Acting assistant administrator of the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, Lawrence Starfield, said the EPA will continue to work in close collaboration with its federal partners to implement a multi-pronged enforcement strategy that includes pursuing civil and criminal violations of the law.
Knowing violations of the AIM Act and related smuggling crimes may result in criminal fines, imprisonment, and other penalties as appropriate.
The task force is co-chaired by EPA and the Department of Homeland Security, and includes Customs and Border Protection, Department of Defense, Department of Justice, and Department of State.
In addition to stopping illegal imports at the border, the task force also announced that EPA has issued 14 Notices of Violation to companies that have allegedly failed to comply with HFC reporting obligations under the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP).
These companies are HFC importers who received HFC allowances after reporting late.