Environmental Permitting

Refrigerants—Cold Lessons Learned

A refrigerant formulator was recently fined $300,000 by the EPA and the Department of Justice for violations of SNAP regulations. First, let’s look at what the pertinent regulations say, then at what the company allegedly did, and finally what the fix will be.

Note: Under SNAP, a “producer” is any person who manufactures, formulates, or otherwise creates a substitute in its final form for distribution or use in interstate commerce. A “formulator” is engaged in the preparation of a substitute for its commercial distribution after chemical manufacture of the substitute or its components.

Pertinent SNAP Regulations

Under the SNAP regulations, anyone who plans to market or produce a substitute in one of the major industrial use sectors (Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning; Foam Blowing Agents; Cleaning Solvents; Fire Suppression and Explosion Protection; Aerosols; Sterilants; Tobacco Expansion; and Adhesives, Coatings, and Inks) where Class I or Class II substances have been used must provide notice to the Agency, including health and safety information on the substitute, at least 90 days before introducing it into interstate commerce for significant new use as an alternative.

The CAA and the SNAP regulations prohibit use of a substitute earlier than 90 days after notice has been provided to the EPA. The EPA considers that notice has been received once the EPA receives the submission and determines that the submission includes complete and adequate data. At that point, the SNAP review begins.

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What Happened in This Case?

The company in question produces, markets, and sells a line of hydrocarbon-based replacement refrigerants for use in residential and commercial air cooling systems. The EPA alleged that the company marketed and sold flammable hydrocarbon refrigerants as direct replacements for ODSs without providing the information required under SNAP for review by the EPA and without waiting 90 days after the submission.

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The Fine and the Fix

In addition to the $300,000 fine, the company is required to pay EPA’s costs for the enforcement action, including attorneys’ fees. Also, the company may not sell any form of propane-based refrigerant, including the ones targeted in the enforcement action, within the United States until it submits SNAP information notice to the EPA and either receives approval for the sale or 90 days passes without the Agency acting on the information notice.

Other compliance requirements include restrictions on the sales and marketing of refrigerants that are substitutes for ODSs.


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