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A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) exceeded its authority under the Clean Air Act by requiring companies to replace hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) with other substances in an effort to fight climate change.
EPA’s 2015 rule effectively banned 38 HFC compounds from uses in aerosol spray cans, new automobile air conditioning systems, foam blowing machines, vending machines, and retail refrigerators beginning in 2020. Former President Barack Obama’s administration imposed the HFC ban as part of its efforts to combat climate change.
Two HFC manufacturers from France (Arkema SA) and Mexico (Mexichem Fluor) sued to overturn the ban, arguing it went beyond EPA’s authority under the 1990 amendments to the 1973 Clean Air Act (CAA). Arkema and Mexichem manufacture HFC-134a, a refrigerant used in automotive air conditioners. Two American companies, Honeywell International and Chemours, which manufacture the refrigerant HFO-1234yf, a hydrofluoroolefin (HFO) that would replace HFC-134a, intervened in the suit in support of the EPA.
The 1990 CAA amendments required manufacturers to replace substances that deplete stratospheric ozone with non-ozone depleting substitutes. “[T]he fundamental problem for EPA is that HFCs are not ozone-depleting substances,” the court ruled on August 8.
“EPA’s well-intentioned policy objectives with respect to climate change do not on their own authorize the agency to regulate,” the court ruled. “Under the Constitution, congressional inaction does not license an agency to take matters into its own hands, even to solve a pressing policy issue such as climate change. … EPA may act only within the boundaries of its statutory authority. Here, EPA exceeded that authority.”
Chalk one up for the rule of law.