Energy & Environment

EPA sued over pollutant leak rollback

Environmentalists sued the Trump administration on Monday over the rollback of an Obama-era rule meant to police the release of powerful greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that are used in refrigerators. 

The new Trump administration rule that became effective last month “relieve[s] businesses from having to repair leaks, conduct leak inspections, and keep records for appliances” that contain certain refrigerants such as HFCs, according to the EPA’s Federal Register notice.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a federal lawsuit against the rule Monday, calling it “wrong-headed and wasteful.”

“This rollback makes no sense, except to the Trump EPA in its unrelenting drive to put polluters ahead of people,” David Doniger, senior strategic director in the NRDC’s Climate and Clean Energy Program, said in a statement. 

“The EPA would rather allow these easily prevented HFC emissions equal to carbon pollution from 625,000 cars hit the atmosphere every year, than require technicians take reasonable steps to find and fix leaks,” he added. 

An EPA official declined to comment on the lawsuit, telling The Hill in a statement that the agency “does not comment on pending litigation.”

The agency has estimated that the rule will save companies about $24 million per year.

It acknowledged, however, that the change will lead to additional greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA estimated that these additional emissions will be the equivalent of releasing an additional 3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air. 

Meanwhile, HFCs have become a hot topic on Capitol Hill. Bipartisan bills have been introduced in the House and the Senate that would aim to phase down the use of the coolants. 

Senators have also attempted to add provisions that would reduce the use of HFCs to a major energy bill. The HFC language has become a major sticking point in negotiations over that legislation. 


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