A key part of the Obama administration’s fight against climate change has been struck down by a federal court.
The ruling announced Tuesday said the Environmental Protection Agency overstepped its authority in 2015 by prohibiting the use of certain refrigerants in air conditioners. Those refrigerants had been blamed for accelerating global warming.
But in a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington said the EPA’s ban “relied on a statute that regulated use of ozone-depleting substances, but the refrigerants — called hydrofluorocarbons — don’t damage the ozone layer,” Judge Brett Kavanaugh said in the court’s decision.
The three-judge panel ruled that because HFCs aren’t “ozone-depleting substances,” the EPA is no longer allowed to operate under the Clean Air Act section that enabled them to target those chemicals to ban HFCs.
“Indeed, before 2015, EPA itself maintained that Section 612 did not grant authority to require replacement of nonozone-depleting substances such as HFCs,” the court wrote.
“EPA’s novel reading of Section 612 is inconsistent with the statute as written. Section 612 does not require (or give EPA authority to require) manufacturers to replace non-ozone-depleting substances such as HFCs,” Kavanaugh said.
The Obama administration enacted the regulatory changes two years ago by citing the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which sought to curb the depletion of the ozone layer by reducing other chemicals found in aerosols.
The lawsuit was brought against the EPA by Arkema SA of France and Mexichem SAB de CV of Mexico.
Stephen Yurek, president and CEO of the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute, said his industry has been directly affected by the regulations.
“This ruling has significant implications for our industry and we will be monitoring the EPA’s response closely,” Yurek said.
“Despite the court’s decision, our industry remains committed to ratification and implementation of the Kigali Amendment to globally phase down the use of HFC refrigerants,” Yurek added.
Under the 2016 Kigali agreement, which some believed worked in unison with the Paris climate agreement, the U.S. and several other countries agreed to progressively reduce the number of HFCs being used and work toward using alternative chemicals.
While President Donald Trump has been critical of many of the environmental regulations put in place by the Obama administration, the Trump administration actually supported this particular component of Obama’s EPA. Now it must decide if will appeal the court’s ruling or allow it to take effect.
When asked about Tuesday’s court ruling, an EPA representative would only say the agence is “reviewing the decision.”
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