With one dissenting vote by a Trump-appointed judge, a federal court in Washington, DC has shot down a bid by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to suspend an Obama-era regulation to control hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), one of the most dangerous greenhouse gases known to humanity.
The regulation was designed to dial back the use of HFCs in devices like refrigerators and air conditioners. But the court “decided in 2017 that the federal government was permitted to prevent companies from switching to HFCs, but could not require those that had already switched to using HFCs to make an additional change,” The Hill reports. In response, the Trump administration suspended the entire rule in 2018—and failed to follow proper procedure when it decided not to allow for public comment.
“EPA had several options by which it could have attempted to address the perceived difficulties associated with implementing our decision,” Judge Sri Srinivasan wrote for the majority. “But the one option EPA could not permissibly pursue was the one it chose: promulgating a legislative rule without abiding by notice-and-comment requirements and without invoking any exception to those obligations.”
“This is a great victory for climate,” said Pete DeMarco, staff attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, which had challenged the rollback. “The court’s decision restores common-sense restrictions on HFC use that EPA had illegally removed, and now EPA has to ensure that as companies complete their transition away from ozone-depleting substances, they switch to alternatives that are safer than these HFCs, which are extremely potent greenhouse gases,”