A recent circuit court decision that undermines current federal regulation of super-pollutants underscores the importance of state regulation and innovation, California Air Resources Board Chair Mary D. Nichols said in a statement Friday.
“Even as we continue to seek strong federal controls, the California Air Resources Board is moving ahead to control super pollutants, including high global warming potential F-gases like hydrofluorocarbons and has already developed draft regulations that would preserve the federal framework for controlling these gases in California,” Nichols said.
“In March 2018, the Board will hear California’s version of the federal program including the possible adoption of some of the federal Significant New Alternatives Policy provisions into state regulation,” she said. “And CARB plans to consider further control of these dangerous gases with an additional regulation at a later date. U.S. EPA should move quickly to explore its options to provide similar protections at the federal level, to the greatest degree possible.”
Background: California’s Program
In order to meet California’s overall greenhouse gas reduction targets under Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32) (Stats. 2006, ch. 488) and Senate Bill 32 (SB 32) (Stats. 2016, ch. 249), a special effort has been mounted to address SLCPs. These are powerful climate forces that remain in the atmosphere for a much shorter period of time than longer-lived climate pollutants, such as carbon dioxide but are more potent when measured in terms of how they heat the atmosphere, which can be tens, hundreds, or even thousands of times greater than that of CO2.
Reducing SLCPs in the near-term will provide immediate and significant climate benefits while other California policies to reduce longer-lived GHGs are implemented. SLCPs include fluorinated gases such as HFCs. Recognizing this, the Legislature passed SB 605 (Stats. 2014, ch. 523), which ultimately required CARB to develop a strategy to further reduce SLCP emissions.
In 2016, the Legislature passed SB 1383 (Stats. 2016, ch. 395), requiring CARB to implement the SLCP Strategy and reduce HFCs by 40 percent below 2013 baseline levels by 2030. In Notice of Public Workshop October 5, 2017, CARB approved the SLCP Strategy describing a set of proposed measures to reduce SCLP emissions in California. The strategy describes the level of reductions needed to ensure that California continues to support the 2020 goals, meets its 2030 climate change goals, and remains on course to meet its 2050 goals.
The Federal Rules
The SLCP Strategy anticipated California could rely on federal rules to meet a large portion of SB 1383’s HFC reduction goals. U.S. EPA SNAP Rules 20 and 21 prohibit specific high-GWP HFCs in new retail food refrigeration, food dispensing equipment, air-conditioning chillers, and refrigerated vending machines.
Indeed, the federal SNAP program as a whole is an important tool for addressing HFCs. Certain provisions of the SNAP Rules have been held invalid as a result of the current litigation, curtailing U.S. EPA’s current regulations’ ability to drive continued replacements of some high-GWP gases.
Although CARB has defended the rules in court and believes that the federal program is the preferred path to achieve these reductions, it must consider state law alternatives as well in order to reach state reduction targets in light of the recent D.C. Circuit decision. CARB staff are exploring the possibility of adopting certain provisions of these federal Rules into state regulations.
Initially, staff are considering provisions addressing only certain provisions of the federal program. Additional sectors covered by SNAP Rules 20 and 21 such as residential refrigerator-freezers, motor vehicle air-conditioning, insulating foam, and aerosol propellants, would not be addressed in these regulations and could be addressed separately.
CARB’s mission is to promote and protect public health, welfare, and ecological resources through effective reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering effects on the economy. The CARB oversees all air pollution control efforts in California to attain and maintain health-based air quality standards.