• Gas cylinders.
    Gas cylinders.

Michael Hart of San Diego was arrested and charged with smuggling greenhouse gases into the United States from Mexico and then selling them for profit.

This is the first prosecution in the United States to include charges related to the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 (AIM Act).

The AIM Act prohibits the importation of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), commonly used as refrigerants, without allowances issued by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

David M. Uhlmann, EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said the illegal smuggling of hydrofluorocarbons, a highly potent greenhouse gas, undermines international efforts to combat climate change under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.

“Anyone who seeks to profit from illegal actions that worsen climate change must be held accountable,” he said.

“This arrest highlights the significance of EPA’s climate enforcement initiative and our efforts to prevent refrigerants that are climate super pollutants from illegally entering the United States.”

According to the EPA, HFCs are potent greenhouse gases that cause climate change and are used in applications such as refrigeration, air-conditioning, building foam insulation, fire extinguishing systems, and aerosols.

The global warming potential of an HFC can be hundreds to thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide. The use of HFCs has been rapidly increasing worldwide due to the global phaseout of ozone-depleting substances and increased demand for refrigeration and air conditioning.

The 2016 Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is an international agreement to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs by 80-85 per cent by 2047.

The indictment alleges that Hart purchased refrigerants in Mexico and smuggled them into the United States in his vehicle, concealed under a tarp and tools.

According to the indictment, Hart posted the refrigerants for sale on OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace, and other sites, and sold them for a profit.

In addition to greenhouse gases, the indictment alleges Hart imported HCFC-22, an ozone-depleting substance regulated under the Clean Air Act.

HCFC-22 for any purpose other than for use in a process resulting in their transformation or their destruction.