On April 27, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to restrict the sales of all refrigerants to anyone other than certified technicians. In calling for the sales restrictions, the NRDC points to the upcoming transition from R-134a now used in most vehicle air conditioners to R-1234yf. R-1234yf is a new refrigerant recently approved by EPA for use on new vehicle air conditioners and which many car companies are looking to use based on its reduced impact on global warming.
The petition states that the sales restrictions are necessary since R-1234yf is more expensive than R-134a and therefore will provide incentives for do-it-yourselfers to use 134a in air conditioning systems originally charged with 1234yf thus causing cross-contamination. According to the NRDC, “Cross contamination of refrigerant increases the cost of service because the mixed refrigerant must be removed from vehicles and from recovery/recycle equipment and either remanufactured or destroyed at a high cost and inconvenience.”
The petition further contends without any substantiation that do-it-yourselfers do not have the training, information or tools to properly charge vehicle air conditioners and therefore causing the refrigerant to be vented into the atmosphere. According to the petition, “EPA data indicates that about half of the R-134a sold for motor vehicle air condition services is used by do-it-yourself car owners to service about 10 of vehicles needing service and that about half is sold for professional service of the other 90 percent of vehicles needing service. Therefore, if all vehicles were professionally serviced, total service emission would be reduced by about 40-45 percent.”
In the late 1990s, EPA considered a ban on the sale of refrigerants to consumers, but decided in 2004 not to take such action. Also, the California Air Resources Board proposed a retail sales ban several years ago, but rejected such action based on the minimal environmental benefits and the adverse impact such action would have on low income families in the state.
The NRDC also called for the agency to remove R-134a from the List of Acceptable Substitutes under the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) for household refrigerators and freezers and stand-alone retail food refrigerators and freezers. The petition further requests that EPA un-list 134a in any aerosol product considered non-essential, such as silly string and dust-off products.
This is the second petition from the NRDC regarding the use of 134a. Last year, the EPA granted a petition from the NRDC that would prohibit the use of R-134a in new motor vehicles. However, the agency has yet to begin a rulemaking process in order to implement the petition.
A copy of the NRDC petition can be found here: http://docs.nrdc.org/
Information in this post was provided by AAIA. Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association. www.aftermarket.org