NJ Joins Suit to Stop EPA From Easing Rules on HFCs Linked to Climate Change

Tom Johnson | June 28, 2018 | Energy & Environment
Federal agency loosens its own limits on hydrofluorocarbons, compounds used in refrigeration, air conditioning, insulation, aerosols, and other processes

climate change
New Jersey is joining other states in trying to block the Environmental Protection Agency from easing rules that limited the use of a potent industrial chemical contributing to climate change.

The lawsuit is the latest in a series of actions filed by the state against the Trump administration’s efforts to weaken environmental regulations aiming to address climate change.

Filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., the petition seeks to invalidate a recently issued guidance document that effectively suspends the agency’s own three-year-old ban on use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in manufacturing.

“As we saw during superstorm Sandy, the symptoms of climate change — like extreme weather, rising seas, and coastal erosion — can put our state at grave risk,’’ said New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.

Climate change is the greatest environmental threat to the state and the planet, Grewal said. “Washington should be placing stricter rules on greenhouse gases, not weakening them,’’ he said.

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe noted the state has been aggressive in trying to reduce greenhouse emissions from power plants, industrial facilities, and vehicles.

“This backdoor attempt to change the rules will undermine our efforts and place at risk those actions that are necessary in other states to address global warming and sea-level rise,’’ McCabe said.

HFCs are compounds used in refrigeration, air conditioning, insulation, aerosols, and other processes. The agency moved to limit their use a few years ago when new alternatives were developed with far less climate impact than HFCs.

In petitioning the federal court, New Jersey joins New York, nine other states, and the District of Columbia in challenging EPA’s guidance as improper. Among other legal violations, the federal agency failed to issue its decision to suspend the HFC rules via the proper rulemaking process and its decision also ignored the significant environmental benefits of the prior limits on the compounds.

Previously, the attorney general has filed legal actions to prevent the Trump administration from rolling back vehicle emission standards and penalties for violating national fuel-economy standards, as well as opposing offshore drilling along the New Jersey coast.

His actions contrast with those of the previous governor, when the Christie administration joined other states in effectively blocking President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan. The initiative, never implemented, sought to curb carbon pollution from power plants.

“It’s critical for states to hold the federal government accountable when it comes to air pollution,’’ said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, which is also suing the EPA over the rollback of the rule.