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EPA Issues Largest Penalty for Illegal Import of HFCs into the U.S.

The accused, Resonac America, has also agreed to destroy 1,693lbs of the HFCs it imported under the settlement.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued its largest-ever penalty to chemical company Resonac America for illegally importing HFCs into the country at the Port of Los Angeles.

The company, which is a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Resonac Corporation, has reached a settlement with the EPA that stipulates it will pay a penalty of $416,003 (€383,505) and destroy 1,693lbs (767.9kg) of the imported HFCs to resolve the violations.

“EPA continues to prioritize enforcement against companies that illegally import refrigerants that damage our climate and imperil future generations,” said David M. Uhlmann, Assistant Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This case is the largest penalty imposed to date for importing super-polluting HFCs as part of EPA’s National Enforcement and Compliance Initiative on Mitigating Climate Change – and the first to require the company to destroy the HFCs.”

“EPA continues to prioritize enforcement against companies that illegally import refrigerants that damage our climate and imperil future generations.”

David M. Uhlmann, EPA

Resonac America is accused of illegally importing HFCs into the U.S. on four occasions in 2023 and 2024. In October, November and December 2023, the company imported a total of 6,208lbs (2,815.9kg) of R23 without having “sufficient allowances” from the EPA.

On these occasions, as well as in February 2024, the company failed to notify the EPA of its planned HFC shipments as required. Resonac is also accused of failing to submit reports on the 2023 imports in a “timely” manner.

With a 100-year GWP of 14,800, R23 is a super-potent greenhouse gas and, at the quantity that was illegally imported by Resonac, would have the same climate impact as 41,677 metric tons of CO2 if released into the atmosphere.

“HFCs are a powerful climate pollutant, so it’s imperative that companies importing them into our nation do so in strict accordance with environmental laws,” explained the EPA’s Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator, Martha Guzman. “This is the latest in a series of EPA HFC enforcement efforts nationwide, which send a clear message that the federal government is vigilantly monitoring imports of HFCs and will hold illegal actors accountable.

“HFCs are a powerful climate pollutant, so it’s imperative that companies importing them into our nation do so in strict accordance with environmental laws.”

Martha Guzman, EPA

Since January 2022, when it became illegal to import regulated HFCs in bulk under the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act, the EPA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection have denied entry to some 81 shipments of prohibited HFCs.

In early 2023, the EPA settled three landmark cases with HFC importers that violated the Clean Air Act’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program by failing to report their imported quantities. In the settlements, the IGas Companies, Harp USA and Artsen Chemical America agreed to pay penalties of $382,473 (€352,594), $275,000 (€253,517) and $247,601 (€228,258), respectively.

Earlier this month, a California man became the first person to be arrested and charged with the smuggling of HFCs into the United States under the AIM Act.

The AIM Act requires the U.S. to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs by 85% by 2036, compared to their historic baseline, which aligns with the widely-ratified Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.

According to the EPA, it has made addressing the illegal import of HFCs a national enforcement and compliance priority.

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