LACEY – Hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, are potent greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change at rates thousands of times that of carbon dioxide. In May, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill cutting the use of HFCs in refrigeration, heating and cooling, foams, and aerosol products.
This week, the Washington Department of Ecology adopted reporting rules to begin that process, and also began a rulemaking process to guide the rest of the transition away from HFCs through 2024.
When the HFC law is fully implemented, it aims to cut Washington’s greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year. That’s equal to the annual emissions from 217,000 cars.
“Tackling climate change requires us to tackle every source of greenhouse gas emissions in our state,” Inslee said. “HFCs are among the most potent pollutants on the planet. Switching to safer, cleaner alternatives in equipment and products is a crucial step forward for our state.”
The law sets an aggressive timeline to end new uses of HFCs. The first step is for manufacturers, importers and distributors to report whether they use the chemicals in their products by the end of this year. Then, between 2020 and 2024, many major uses of HFCs will be phased out.
The Washington law implements rules adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that were partially overturned in a 2017 court decision. Because the law focuses on companies that manufacture or import HFC-containing products, users of these products – including consumers, retailers, and business owners – in most cases won’t have to do anything: When their existing equipment wears out, they can simply buy new, HFC-free replacement equipment. Equipment using environmentally safer HFC alternatives is already available and should not typically cost more than versions containing hydrofluorocarbons.