The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announces that Rhode Island, along with Massachusetts and Maine, is preparing to regulate hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), highly potent greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. HFCs often are used in commercial refrigeration, stationary and mobile air conditioning, heat pumps, foams, and aerosols. This newest action adds to Rhode Island’s multi-pronged fight against climate change, which, under the direction of Governor Gina M. Raimondo, includes ambitious renewable energy deployment, a heating sector transformation, and strengthening the resilience of communities and natural areas.
“We must use every tool at our disposal to take urgent action on climate change,” said Governor Raimondo. “In the absence of federal leadership, I’m proud to stand with governors on both sides of the aisle who recognize the dangers of HFCs. It’s time to regulate these harmful pollutants.”
“I am proud to join with the other governors in the U.S. Climate Alliance in moving to prohibit the use of HFCs and bring Massachusetts closer to achieving its ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “For the Commonwealth to meet our goal to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, we will need to act to curb high-emitting sources like HFCs, and this plan represents a great opportunity to combat climate change and preserve our environment.”
“HFCs are the heavy hitter of climate change, inflicting significantly more damage than CO2 in much smaller doses,” said Maine Governor Janet Mills. “With safer alternatives now available, the gradual phase out of these super pollutants makes sense for consumers, businesses, and our environment. I am proud to join with other governors from the U.S. Climate Alliance in taking this step. Our actions show that, regardless of what happens – or doesn’t happen – in Washington, states can forge important progress in fighting climate change.”
As part of the regulatory process related to HFCs, DEM will hold workshops with manufacturers and other stakeholders this spring to discuss the proposed regulatory changes. DEM anticipates filing new regulations this summer to phase down these potent pollutants over time and replace them with less harmful alternatives.
The proposed regulations will be substantially consistent with those being developed by Massachusetts and Maine as well as other United States Climate Alliance states. In 2017, Governor Raimondo joined the U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of governors committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. Because federal rules restricting the use of HFCs have been partly vacated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the U.S. Climate Alliance states are taking a leadership role in the absence of national rules.
HFCs have global warming potentials hundreds to thousands of times greater than CO₂, and a lifespan of about 15 years. Without further controls, HFC emissions could double in 20 years. For example, just one pound of R-404A, an HFC refrigerant used in supermarkets, has the same climate impact over 100 years as almost two tons of CO₂.
“Phasing down these harmful substances from our environment and replacing them with cleaner, alternative products will lead to climate benefits and put us on the path to meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement,” said DEM Director Janet Coit. “Climate change is the issue of our time that affects the health, safety, and prosperity of our communities. Tackling climate change is a top strategic priority for Governor Raimondo and DEM because RI already is experiencing related effects and has so much at stake. Even in the past decade, Rhode Islanders have seen places we love eroded, flooded, degraded, and lost due to impacts of climate change.”
Under the direction of Governor Raimondo, Rhode Island is working aggressively to strengthen its resilience to climate change and to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Rhode Island is taking aggressive action to meet its greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals of 45% below 1990 levels by 2035 and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 including by: working toward a new goal for 100% clean electricity by 2030; doubling down on energy efficiency with programs that are ranked third in the nation; launching a Heating Sector Transformation, the first of its kind; rolling out electric vehicle charging infrastructure and electric buses in the public transit fleet; and implementing the nation’s first statewide climate change resilience strategy.
According to the U.S. Climate Alliance, phasing down the use of HFCs will help keep American companies globally competitive and could create tens of thousands of jobs and tens of billions of dollars in annual economic value in the United States. Coupled with efficiency opportunities in refrigeration and cooling, phasing down the use of HFCs and replacing them with gases with lower global warming potential delivers significant climate and energy efficiency benefits. Refrigerant servicing companies will simply transition from using HFCs to using non-HFC alternatives and will receive training and instruction from the manufacturers. Impacts to businesses with equipment using HFCs will be minimal because retrofits will occur at the same time as normal servicing or other repairs.