Ozone Depleting Substances – They Could Burn a Hole in Your Pocket and the Ozone Layer!
Posted: October 9th, 2015Authors: Sally A.
I don’t know what’s in your annual budget, but up to $32,500 a day per violation under the Clean Air Act (CAA) adds up pretty quickly and is a significant amount of money that could be saved by being proactive. Just some quick facts if that dollar amount hasn’t caught your attention yet: In 2013, Safeway paid a $600,000 civil penalty for failing to promptly fix equipment leaks of an ozone-depleting substance (ODS) [hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC-22)], and retain proper service records. The company had to implement a corporate-wide plan to significantly reduce its emissions of ODS from refrigeration equipment at an estimated cost of $4,100,000 for 659 of its stores nationwide. This settlement between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) and the second largest grocery store chain in the nation involved the most facilities ever indicted under the CAA’s regulations governing refrigeration equipment. But wait…then there was 2014’s settlement with Costco Wholesale Corporation, the second largest retailer in the country, for similar violations to Safeway. In its settlement with U.S. EPA, Costco agreed to decrease its emissions of ODS and greenhouse gas chemicals from refrigeration equipment at more than half of its stores nationwide. Costco was subjected to $335,000 in penalties, on top of the requirement to improve its refrigerant management at 274 stores: an estimated cost of $2,000,000 over three (3) years. 2015 is not over yet, but hopefully facilities are taking heed from others’ past mistakes.
The U.S. EPA continues to reassess its ODS regulations designed to protect the ozone layer under Title VI of the CAA. Most recently (May 23, 2014 and April 10, 2015), new rules were issued that exempted certain refrigerant substitutes in specific end-uses for which they are listed in the rule here and here. Back in 2010, U.S. EPA proposed a rule to amend its Section 608 of the CAA (Leak Repair Requirements; codified in 40 CFR Part 82, Subpart F) to clarify certain requirements and increase recordkeeping, among other changes, for comfort cooling, commercial refrigeration, and industrial process refrigeration containing ODS charges greater than 50 pounds. In my recent conversations with U.S. EPA, that amendment is still on hold. They’ve decided to take a broader look at Section 608, including the leak repair requirements and other aspects, and may issue a new proposal in the future.
By no means though is it time to sit back and wait for new rules to come down the pipeline. Quite the contrary, especially as we start to head towards cooler weather and the use of comfort cooling equipment becomes less intensive. Now is a great time to take a facility-wide inventory of the types of equipment (e.g., chiller, air conditioner, refrigerator, freezer) that use refrigerant and document the refrigerant used, the equipment’s full charge, number of circuits and charge per circuit, etc. As the owner/operator of this equipment, it is your responsibility to verify that all applicable records are in order and retained onsite, even if you rely on a third-party contractor to maintain equipment. Although the current rule requires recordkeeping for only units that contain 50 or more pounds of ODS (and annualized leak rate calculations for individual circuits containing more than 50 pounds of ODS), the regulatory prohibition of venting is still applicable to those units that use an U.S. EPA-approved substitute under the Significant New Alternatives Policy Program (SNAP)( http://www3.epa.gov/ozone/snap/), unless it is one (1) of the substitutes listed in the recent rules mentioned earlier. On July 20, 2015, U.S. EPA issued a final rule prohibiting certain hydrofluorocarbons (i.e., those with high global warming potentials) in various end-uses in the aerosols, refrigeration and air conditioning (particularly retail food refrigeration and motor vehicles), and foam blowing sectors as alternatives under SNAP.
Perhaps you’ve read Sharon Sadler’s recent blog, Top 5 Preparations for Air Compliance Inspections, that highlights the need to review your refrigerants whether they are an ODS or an EPA-approved substitute. Common violations are the failure to: repair refrigerant leaks in a timely manner, ensure adequate repairs to appliances are performed before resuming operations, use a certified refrigerant recovery device when performing service on applicable appliances, demonstrate onsite technicians are certified, and provide adequate records of repair service.
Whether your facility operates under a Title V Permit and must certify compliance each March with the various subparts of 40 CFR Part 82, or it operates under some other type of permit or no permit at all – the rule is applicable in some way if your facility has equipment containing refrigerants (and/or your facility services motor vehicle air conditioning units). The time is now to become proactive to ensure you have an effective ODS management system in place – keep track of your refrigerants (from purchase to use to reclamation or disposal), bolster your repair recordkeeping system if necessary, increase awareness through training, implement accountability with your staff, provide management oversight, , and conduct internal auditing.