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ATMO America 2023 Refrigerants PFAS

Refrigerants’ Link to ‘Forever Chemicals’ Known as PFAS to be Addressed at ATMO America

Panelists will discuss EPA’s narrow definition of PFAS, which excludes refrigerants and their TFA atmospheric degradation product.

The link between certain f-gas refrigerants and PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) – the so-called “forever chemicals” that have come under global regulatory scrutiny for their harm to human health – will be addressed at the ATMOsphere (ATMO) America Summit 2023 on natural refrigerant-based HVAC&R systems.

This 12th annual edition of the conference will be held Monday, June 12, and Tuesday, June 13, 2023, in Washington, D.C., at the Renaissance Downtown. The event, addressing applications of natural refrigerants CO2 (R744), hydrocarbons and ammonia (R717), is organized by ATMOsphere, a market accelerator of natural refrigerant-based cooling and heating systems.

You can register for the event here and find the preliminary program and other information on the event website.  End users can register for free, and contractors/installers of HVAC&R systems are eligible to receive one free ticket per organization, with a 50% discount on additional tickets.

The PFAS panel discussion, scheduled for 1:30pm on June 12, will feature Robert Sussman Principal, Sussman & Associates, and former Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under President Bill Clinton; Tim Whitehouse, Executive Director of PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility); Heidi Pickard, PFAS Researcher and Doctoral Student, Harvard University’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; business consultant Tom Camp, CEO, AHR Edge; and Thomas Trevisan, Deputy Manager for Public Affairs, ATMOsphere.

The panel will examine the EPA’s definition of PFAS, which excludes refrigerants such as HFO-1234yf and HFC-134a as well as their degradation products, notably trifluoroacetic acid (TFA). These f-gas refrigerants and TFA are regarded as PFAS by the EU, Canada and several U.S. states.

Pickard will discuss Canadian research she participated in showing the accumulation of TFA in Arctic ice cores, which is attributed to the breakdown of certain f-gases into TFA in the atmosphere.

Whitehouse will address the EPA’s narrow definition of PFAS, which PEER has legally challenged the EPA to scientifically justify – litigation that is ongoing. EPA’s current working definition “leaves many toxic and persistent PFAS beyond federal control,” PEER said in a statement earlier this year.

Sussman will weigh in on why the EPA must protect public health by regulating PFAS as a class – the title of an essay he co-authored.

Camp will address the business implications of the PFAS issue while Trevisan will provide an overview of how the EU is handling the issue.

Last year at ATMOsphere America, Lydia Jahl, Science and Policy Associate for the Green Science Policy Institute (GSPI), made the case that the definition of PFAS used by the EPA should be broadened to include chemicals such as certain HFC and HFO refrigerants, as well as TFA.

Walmart and the EPA

Other notable speakers at ATMO America 2023 will include Jim McClendon, Director of Engineering at Walmart Stores, and Cindy Newberg, Director of the Stratospheric Protection Division at the Office of Atmospheric Programs, U.S. EPA.

McClendon will participate in a session, “Solving the CO2 Shortage,” that will examine the shortage of refrigerant-grade CO2, which threatens to slow the U.S. transition away from high GWP HFC refrigerants. Other panelists will include a retail end user, a service contractor and a CO2 expert. The session will be led by Danielle Wright, Executive Director of the North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council (NASRC), an environmental nonprofit working to advance climate-friendly natural refrigerants.

In a session on policy, Newberg will provide an update on the EPA’s implementation of the U.S. AIM (American Innovation and Manufacturing) Act, which includes a phase down of HFCs, a ban on new uses of HFCs, and new rules on the management of HFCs. She will focus on the bans, also known as the technology transition part of the AIM Act.

Other policy speakers will include Christina Starr, Senior Manager with the Climate Campaign at the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA); and Keith Dennis, President, Beneficial Electrification League. Starr will discuss developments in charge standards for hydrocarbon refrigerants used in commercial display cabinets, air-conditioning and heat pumps. Dennis will explain how to obtain subsidies for heat pump installations from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

Speakers from Ahold Delhaize, Ernst & Young

Other speakers confirmed for the event include:

  • Kathy Loftus, Vice President of Strategic Construction Projects, Energy and Facility Services for Retail Business Services, the services company of Ahold Delhaize USA
  • Abhijit Bhide Managing Director at Bank of America
  • Rob Bradley, Managing Director, Climate Change and Sustainability Services, Ernst & Young
  • Ben Churchill Chief Strategy Officer at CoolPlanet
  • Andy Baker, Owner and Project Manager, YourCleanEnergy (on heat pump market trends)
  • End Users Panel: Francisco Picazo, Project Manager, Grupo Bimbo; Carl Klemp, HVAC/R Engineer, Kwik Trip; and John DeCicco Jr., President of DeCicco Family Markets; and Griffin Plush, Vice Chair, Seward Heat Loop Project, Seward, Alaska
  • Contractors Panel: Ady Vyas, Vice President, Sales & Operations, Neelands Group; Mark Stencel, Director of Refrigeration Product Solutions,  Bassett Mechanical; Jeff Buxton, Refrigeration Engineer, JH Kelly (Portland Mechanical Contractors); and Brian McMillan, Director of Preconstruction, InterCool USA

There will also be case study presentations on commercial and industrial refrigeration and heat pumps and a session on refrigeration market trends. In addition, ATMO Awards will be presented to a retailer and an industrial end user, and attendees will vote on the Innovation of the Year award. A Person of the Year will also be named.

ATMO America will gather key industry experts, including manufacturers, policy makers, end users and contractors, to learn about the latest developments in natural refrigerant-based HVAC&R systems. Last year’s ATMO America conference was held in Alexandria, Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C.

The Platinum sponsor of ATMO America 2023 is Hillphoenix. Gold sponsors are M&M CarnotKysor Warren, Emerson, Hussmann, and Energy Recovery. Information on sponsorships can be found here.

Media partners include Supermarket NewsContracting Business and Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer.

Presentations from last year’s ATMO America can be found here.

EPA’s current working definition “leaves many toxic and persistent PFAS beyond federal control.”

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)

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