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Federal court declares EPA’s harmful rollback of greenhouse-gas rule illegal

On February 29, Electrek reported that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had finalized a rule that eliminated leak prevention and repair requirements for hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the heat-trapping pollutants used in commercial and industrial refrigeration.

Yesterday, a federal court struck down the EPA’s rollback of the greenhouse-gas-leak prevention rule. The court said that the Trump administration did not follow proper procedure.

The rule, set under the Obama administration, extended leak prevention requirements to HFCs that were already in place for ozone-depleting refrigerants such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

HFCs’ impact on global warming can be hundreds to thousands of times greater than that of carbon dioxide per unit of mass.

The Hill reports:

After the court ruled in 2017 that part of a rule regarding the use of HFCs was too far-reaching, the EPA suspended the entire rule without giving the public time to weigh in.

A federal court in Washington, DC, determined in a 2-1 decision that this was unlawful and reversed the EPA’s 2018 action.

Judge Sri Srinivasan wrote:

EPA had several options by which it could have attempted to address the perceived difficulties associated with implementing our decision.

But the one option EPA could not permissibly pursue was the one it chose: promulgating a legislative rule without abiding by notice-and-comment requirements and without invoking any exception to those obligations.

Natural Resources Defense Council staff attorney Pete DeMarco said:

This is an important victory for our climate. The court’s decision restores common-sense restrictions on HFC use that EPA had illegally removed. EPA must ensure that as companies complete their transition away from ozone-depleting substances, they switch to alternatives safer than climate-polluting HFCs.

Electrek’s Take

The EPA has taken such a slash-and-burn approach to environmental protection rollbacks that it’s a relief to see the courts intervene with the rule of law. Electrek reported yesterday that Massachusetts senators have questioned the EPA’s suspension of the enforcement of environmental rules during the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s distressing to see the EPA dismantle the very rules that are meant to designed to protect us from pollution and other harmful substances — the opposite of what the agency is meant to do.

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.