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CFC - HCFC - HFC and other "clean" extinguishing agents.
Under section 608 of the Clean Air Act, it has been illegal since November 15, 1995, to knowingly vent substitutes for CFC and HCFC refrigerants during the maintenance, service, repair and disposal of air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment. On June 11, 1998, EPA proposed a regulation to fully implement this statutory venting prohibition.
Overview of Proposed Rule
In brief, the proposed regulations would:
Exempt certain substitute refrigerants from the venting prohibition;
Extend to HFC and PFC refrigerants the requirements currently in place for CFC and HCFC refrigerants, including required practices, certification programs for recovery/recycling equipment, reclaimers, and technicians, a prohibition on the sale of refrigerant to anyone but certified technicians, leak repair requirements, and safe disposal requirements;
Make minor changes to the required practices, recovery equipment standards, and refrigerant purity standards for CFCs and HCFCs to accommodate the addition of the HFC and PFC refrigerants; and
Lower the maximum allowable leak rates for comfort cooling chillers, commercial refrigeration, and industrial process refrigeration. The new maximum allowable leak rates would apply to equipment containing CFCs, HCFCs, HFCs, and PFCs.
Section 608 directly prohibits the venting of substitute refrigerants during the maintenance, service, repair, and disposal of air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment unless EPA determines that the release of the substitute does not pose a threat to the environment. EPA is considering a number of factors in making this determination, including the substitute's toxicity, flammability, long-term environmental impact (such as global warming potential), and regulation under other authorities (such as OSHA or other EPA requirements). Based on these considerations, the following refrigerants are subject to the venting prohibition, and EPA is proposing to cover them under the regulations:
EPA is proposing to exempt the following refrigerants from the venting prohibition:
ammonia that is used in absorption systems or in commercial or industrial process refrigeration systems
hydrocarbons that are used in industrial process refrigeration systems for processing hydrocarbons
chlorine that is used in industrial process refrigeration systems for processing chlorine or chlorine compounds
CO2, nitrogen, and water
This proposed exemption applies only to applications of these refrigerants that have been approved under EPA's Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Program. The applicability of recycling requirements to these substitutes in other applications (e.g., hydrocarbons in household refrigerators) will be considered when the substitutes in those applications are submitted for SNAP review.
Note that it may be dangerous to use CFC and HCFC recovery equipment to recover ammonia, hydrocarbons, or chlorine. However, users of hydrocarbon, ammonia, and pure chlorine refrigerants must continue to comply with all other applicable federal, state, and local restrictions on emissions of these substances.