New York State flag; image by Paul Brennan from Pixabay
New York State flag; image by Paul Brennan from Pixabay

New York State Official Addresses ‘Misconceptions’ about Proposed HFC Regulations

The state is accepting written comments on the proposed Part 494 revisions until 5 pm EDT on March 19, 2024.

In a public online hearing on March 13 to address proposed HFC regulations for New York State, Suzanne Hagell, Climate Change Policy Analyst II at the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), addressed what she called “misconceptions” and “misinformation” among stakeholders who have pushed back against the regulations.

Regulations in the proposed rule, which would amend New York’s 6 NYCRR Part 494, “Hydrofluorocarbon Standards and Reporting, include 20-year GWP limits of 10 for many new HVAC&R systems by 2034 and thereby supports the adoption of natural refrigerant-based applications.

“The rulemaking does not require any person or entity to replace any existing equipment or product,” said Hagell at the beginning of the hearing, correcting comments made about the amendments. “It would not require grocery stores, including small and independent businesses, to replace their refrigeration equipment before the end of its useful life.”

Regulations in the proposed rule would only phase out HFCs in newly manufactured equipment and products under a timeline that “varies by equipment type and recognizes the status of available alternatives on the market,” she noted. Moreover, the compliance timeline is “aligned with the phaseout of HFCs required at the federal and international level in the U.S. AIM Act and the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.”

The DEC is accepting written comments on the proposed Part 494 revisions until 5 pm EDT on March 19, 2024. Comments can be emailed to Hagell at climate.regs@dec.ny.gov with “Comments on Part 494 HFC” in the subject line of the email.

Under the proposal, for newly manufactured supermarket systems, remote condensing units, cold-storage warehouses and industrial process refrigeration, HFC refrigerants with a GWP20 greater than 580 would be banned in equipment with refrigerant charge capacity of 50lbs (23kg) or greater as of January 1, 2025. In equipment with refrigerant charge capacity of less than 50lbs,  HFCs with a GWP20 greater than 943 would be prohibited as of January 1, 2025. In all equipment, refrigerants with a GWP20 greater than 10 would not be allowed as of January 1, 2034.

For residential and light commercial air-conditioning and heat pumps, virgin refrigerants with a GWP20 greater than 10 would be prohibited as of January 1, 2028, and all refrigerants with a GWP20 greater than 10 would not be allowed as of January 1, 2034.

The proposed regulations also include reporting, leak detection and repair and other requirements regarding the sale, use and supply of HFCs and new products and systems that contain HFCs. New York, unlike the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or other states, uses a 20-year GWP value for gases rather than a 100-year GWP value.

Opposing views

During the March 13 hearing, the DEC received a number of comments from retailers and other companies and groups objecting to the new regulations. For example, Tim Bowen, Manager of the Maintenance Department for Tops Friendly Markets, a New York chain, said Tops “is strongly opposed to the regulations on HFCs and HFOs because of the unknown availability of refrigerant to replace them.” He also rejected the use of the 20-year GWP and asked for a “strong roadmap” from the state.

Another stakeholder, Mike Durant, CEO of the Food Industry Alliance of New York, said he appreciated the comments made by Hagell about retrofits but “concerns still exist.” He asked for a clearer definition of “new refrigeration equipment” in retrofit scenarios.

Deric West, owner of two grocery stores – Honeoye Falls Market Place and Mendon Meadows Marketplace – in New York, said the proposed regulations would “create undue and insurmountable financial burden” on local independent retailers.

Todd Titus, Director of State and Public Affairs for Heating, Air-conditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI), asked that the HFC rule amendments be rejected. “They would effectively ban the installation of current technology used for AC and refrigeration systems for businesses and residences without providing adequate time for an efficient transition to occur,” he said.

Supporting views

On the other hand, several stakeholders wholeheartedly endorsed the proposed measures. (ATMOsphere, publisher of R744.com, testified for passage of the amendments.)

Beth Porter, Senior Climate Policy Analyst at Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) US, strongly supported the proposed HFC restrictions, calling them “an important backstop to federal policies, as the current 494 regulation did for the EPA’s SNAP program, which was rolled back in 2017 and 2019.” In addition, she said, the proposed GWP limits “send a long-term signal needed to transition from HFCs to alternatives with ultralow GWPs of less than 10 and also allows time for industry to make that transition.” She noted that ALDI, which operates stores nationally and in New York, has committed to replacing all HFCs with natural refrigerants by 2035.

Michael Helme, who coordinates New Yorkers for Cool Refrigerant Management, pointed out the environmental and cost benefits of an automatic leak detection system, which would be required under the proposed rule by June 1, 2025, for refrigeration systems with charges over 1,500lbs (680kg). “This would reduce annual leak rates by 10% or more,” he said, adding that the effect for a system with 2,000lbs (907kg) of R404A would be to cut 780,000lbs (354,000kg) of CO2e emissions annually and save $4,000 (€3,673) per year in refrigerant costs.

Another member of New Yorkers for Cool Refrigerant Management, Anne Erling, added, “Owners of systems using natural refrigerants will save costs and avoid the hassles of accessing increasingly scarce high-GWP refrigerants and won’t have to worry about any additional replacements to comply with climate-protecting regulations.”

Eric SmithVice President and Technical Director, International Institute of All-Natural Refrigeration (IIAR), pointed out that the use of natural refrigerant systems in Europe is “prolific” while in the U.S. “equipment is available in a variety of sizes.” Moreover, natural refrigerants are “energy efficient, have no ozone depletion potential, have a very low GWP and no potential for PFAS emissions.”

Also noting the wide availability of natural refrigerant equipment was Dave Malinauskas, President of CIMCO Refrigeration. “This makes the requirement for under 10GWP reasonable,” he said, adding, “We stand ready to work with end users in New York to provide cost effective and energy efficient ultralow-GWP solutions for businesses and consumers.”

“From a climate perspective it is clear that whenever we can go to near-zero-emission technologies, we should,” said Richie Kaur, Non-CO2 Climate Pollution Reduction Advocate, Climate & Energy for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “For some sectors like commercial and industrial refrigeration this transition is already happening.”

Kaur acknowledged that for air-conditioning and heat pumps the transition will be “neither straightforward nor simple” but necessary in the long term. “We don’t want to get too far up the exponential adoption of heat pumps with yesterday’s obsolete refrigerants locked inside tomorrow’s state-of-the-art technology.”

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recently announced the completion of two store projects that successfully demonstrate the use of CO2(R744)-based refrigeration systems in disadvantaged communities as a replacement for climate-altering HFC refrigerants.

The projects at an ALDI US supermarket in Buffalo, New York, and a Walgreens drugstore in Islandia, New York. The ALDI store uses a transcritical CO2 system while the Walgreens outlet employs a CO2 condensing unit, according to industry sources.

The projects are supported by the New York State Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) and were completed through a partnership with the North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council (NASRC) and the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I).

“The rulemaking does not require any person or entity to replace any existing equipment or product.”

Suzanne Hagell, Climate Change Policy Analyst II at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

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