The U.S. Interagency Task Force on Illegal Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) Trade announced March 15 that, over the past ten weeks, it had prevented illegal imports of HFC shipments equivalent to approximately 530,000 metric tons of CO2e.

This is the same amount as the emissions from nearly 100,000 homes’ electricity use in one year.

The task force, consisting of U.S. federal agencies, is co-chaired by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which reported the announcement, and the Department of Homeland Security, and includes Customs and Border Protection, Department of Defense, Department of Justice, and Department of State. 

In September of 2021, the task force was established when the EPA issued a final rule based on the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act.

As of January 1, 2022, also pursuant to the AIM Act rule, the EPA’s HFC Allowance Allocation and Trading program went into effect, requiring EPA-established allowances for the import of HFCs. Shipments coming to U.S. ports without proper allowances have been identified, stopped, and re-exported.

The Allowance Allocation and Trading program is part of the rule’s comprehensive program to cap and phase down the production and consumption of HFCs in the U.S.

The task force aims to ensure the environmental benefits of the rule are realized by “detecting, deterring, and disrupting any attempts to illegally import HFCs into the United States,” the EPA said.

“Our task force is already sending the clear message to potential violators that we are fortifying our borders against illegal imports. It’s simple – no allowances, no entry,” said Joe Goffman, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “Strict enforcement of our HFC allowance program ensures that U.S. efforts to phase down these climate-damaging chemicals are successful.” 

Violating the AIM Act can result in administrative and civil fines as well as injunctive relief and other consequences including the revocation of allowances.  In addition, illegally imported HFCs may be seized by authorities, or the importer required to re-export or destroy the goods, at their cost.  Knowing violations of the AIM Act and related smuggling crimes may result in criminal fines, imprisonment, and other penalties.

Notices of violation

In addition to stopping illegal imports at the border, the task force also announced that the EPA has issued 14 “notices of violation” to companies that have allegedly failed to comply with HFC reporting obligations under the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP).

“In coming years the legal limits for HFC consumption will be further reduced, leading to even more incentive for illegal activity,” said Christina Starr, Senior Policy Analyst for the Environmental Investigation Agency. “It is vital for the U.S. to continue this focus on enforcement and deter this behavior through strict penalties for those found cheating.”

“Our task force is already sending the clear message to potential violators that we are fortifying our borders against illegal imports.

Joe Goffman, U.S. EPA

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