U.S. Supreme Court won’t hear HFCs case

High Court declines to take up appeal of Court of Appeals decision limiting EPA’s regulation of HFC – a decision authored by new justice Brett Kavanaugh.

U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday declined to hear the appeal of a 2017 Court of Appeals case that restricted the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate HFCs under the Significant New Alternatives Program (SNAP), according to multiple published reports.

The ruling coincided with the first day on the Supreme Court of newly confirmed justice Brett Kavanaugh, who, in his former role as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, wrote the 2-1 decision in the HFCs caseMexichem Fluor v. EPA. Kavanaugh did not participate in the Supreme Court’s decision to decline hearing the case.

The August 2017 Court of Appeals decision, which has roiled the U.S. HVAC&R industry, was appealed to the Supreme Court by chemical companies Honeywell and Chemours and by environmental NGO Natural Resources Defense Council, who were intervenors in the case. The defendant in the case, the EPA, did not appeal. Moreover, in late August the EPA asked the Supreme Court not to hear the appeal, saying it no longer supports the type of regulation that the appeals court overturned, according to an article in TheHill.com.

In the original Court of Appeals case, foreign chemical companies Mexichem and Arkema challenged the EPA’s authority to regulate HFCs under the SNAP program, focusing on Rules 20 and 21 that delisted HFCs from the SNAP list of acceptable refrigerants.

The Court of Appeals agreed in part, saying the SNAP program could not justify replacing HFCs in existing equipment where the HFCs were used in lieu of ozone-depleting substances (ODS). (But the court allowed HFCs to be prohibited from use in systems still using ODS.)

In February, the EPA announced it would abandon Rule 20 altogether, going beyond the requirements of the Appeals Court decision, and initiated new rulemaking on how it would regulate HFCs in the future.

In addition to coinciding with Kavanaugh’s installation on the Supreme Court, the high court’s decision to decline to hear Mexichem Fluor v. EPA came in the wake of a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlighting the environmental hazards posed by greenhouse gases like HFCs.

Coming only a day after the world’s leading climate scientists called for urgent action to curb dangerous carbon pollution, the court’s decision lets irresponsible companies to continue harming our planet — even though safer alternatives exist,” said David Doniger, an attorney and senior strategic director for NRDC, in TheHill.com article.

In reaction to the Appeals Court decision and the EPA’s subsequent actions, four states – California, New York, Maryland and Connecticut – have committed to preserving the EPA’s original HFC restrictions on the state level.

Coming only a day after the world’s leading climate scientists called for urgent action to curb dangerous carbon pollution, the court’s decision lets irresponsible companies to continue harming our planet — even though safer alternatives exist.
– David Doniger, NRDC

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