New York State Capitol, Albany, New York
New York State Capitol, Albany, New York; photo by Ron Cogswell via Wikimedia Commons

New York State Seeks Feedback for Updating its HFCs Rule and NatRef Goals

The state is considering expanding its HFC regulation and funding demonstration projects to support natural refrigerants in low income areas.

In preparation for amending its 2020 HFC regulation and offering support for natural refrigerant systems, New York State is seeking “pre-proposal” feedback from HVAC&R stakeholders on major sources of HFC emissions in the state and potential regulatory mechanisms for reducing these emissions.

Interested parties can submit feedback on amending the regulation (6 NYCRR Part 494) here. The deadline for feedback is June 30. The timeline for a proposal and final rule, Including a public comment period and hearings, goes to the end of 2022 through 2023, with adoption expected before 2024.

Stakeholders, including manufacturers, contractors, end users and others, will also have an opportunity to offer feedback on June 8 at the ATMOsphere (ATMO) America conference on natural refrigerants, where Suzanne Hagell, Climate Policy Analyst II, Office of Climate Change, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), will appear as a panelist in the policy and standards session. ATMO America will take place June 7-8 in Alexandria, Virginia.

New York is the fourth most populous state in the U.S., with a population of more than 19 million. HFCs make up 6% of all greenhouse gases in New York and are projected to increase 57% by 2050, according to the DEC.

In 2019, New York enacted the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act), which requires the state to reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions (including HFCs) from 1990 levels by 40% by 2030, and by no less than 85% by 2050.

The Climate Act was followed in 2020 by adoption of 6 NYCRR (New York codes, rules and regulations) Part 494, which establishes prohibitions on certain HFCs in certain end-uses including refrigerators, supermarkets, chillers, foams, and as aerosol propellants. The rule adopted bans that had previously been included in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program. These prohibitions went into effect in 2021.

While this regulation, as well as the U.S. AIM Act, Is expected contribute to HFC emission reductions over time, “they are not sufficient to achieve the [Climate Act’s] statutorily required GHG emission reductions,” said DEC. Thus the DEC is working on expanding Part 94, and is seeking feedback for that effort.

Last year, the state’s Climate Action Council developed a “draft scoping plan” of recommendations to meet the Act’s emissions-reduction targets, including a full transition to natural and ultra-low GWP refrigerants by 2050. “We need to get started on this now and we’re looking for feedback,” said Hagell.

Some early actions under consideration for updating the Part 494 regulation include “expanding our HFC regulation and funding demonstration projects to support natural refrigerants in low income areas,” she said. The DEC is evaluating which end-use categories are already being served by natural refrigerants and how long it will take for others, such as residential AC, to use those refrigerants.

The updated rule could include expanding the list of prohibited HFCs and prohibitions on new equipment, as well as adding actions to address HFC emissions from existing equipment, while introducing new requirements to address refrigerant leakage and disposal. The updated Part 494 may specifically affect manufacturers, retailers, contractors, operators or owners, and consumers of retail refrigeration, chillers, and other HVAC equipment, including heat pumps.

20 years, not 100, for GWP

Notably, New York requires the use of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 20-year GWP metric, rather than the traditional 100-year GWP,  which us used by the U.S. EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB). “The GWP 100 values used today were also published more than 15 years ago; they are useful for standardization, but they do not reflect the best available science,” said DEC. But the DEC is still evaluating how the 20-year GWP requirement will affect its HFC rules.

To further describe the impact of HFCs, New York state has published the estimated social cost of a variety of refrigerants. For example, while the social cost of CO2 (R744) refrigerant is estimated to be $128 per ton, the social cost of R513A is calculated to be $79,000 per ton,

DEC noted that its concerns about the continued use of HFCs in existing equipment, combined with a growing demand for new equipment, particularly applies to heat pumps, which are being adopted to decarbonize home and commercial heating. “The Draft Scoping Plan recommends the widespread adoption of heat pumps, which currently use high GWP HFC refrigerants,” DEC said.

“We need to get started on this now and we’re looking for feedback.”

Suzanne Hagell, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

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