A U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cannot ban the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled 2-1 in favor of the plaintiffs in the case of Mexichem Fluor Inc. vs. the EPA. The court stated the EPA cannot ban HFCs under Section 612 of the Clean Air Act because that provision was designed only to address ozone-depleting substances. Although HFCs are among the greenhouse gases suspected of contributing to climate change, they do not deplete the ozone layer.
“The EPA’s authority to regulate ozone-depleting substances under Section 612 and other statutes does not give the EPA authority to order the replacement of substances that are not ozone depleting but that contribute to climate change,” the court ruled. “Congress has not yet enacted general climate change legislation. Although we understand and respect EPA’s overarching effort to fill that legislative void and regulate HFCs, the EPA may act only as authorized by Congress.”
The ruling struck down an executive order that was part of President Barack Obama’s 2013 Climate Action Plan, which had indicated the EPA would use its authority through the Significant New Alternatives Policy Program (SNAP) program of Section 612 to reduce HFC emissions. To that end, in 2015, the EPA issued a rule that restricted manufacturers from making certain products containing HFCs.
To read the legal opinion in full, please click here.