Governor Mills Announces Effort to Phase-down Climate Super-Pollutant Alongside Massachusetts and Rhode Island

February 18, 2020

Governor Janet Mills announced today that Maine, along with Massachusetts and Rhode Island, is spearheading an effort to phase down the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a highly potent greenhouse gas and significant driver of climate change. These synthetic gases are most often used as a refrigerant in appliances and are known as “climate super-pollutants”, with hundreds to thousands of times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide. Governor Mills today submitted bipartisan legislation that directs the Department of Environmental Protection to limit the use HFCs where safer alternatives are available. Massachusetts and Rhode Island announced their intention today to begin rulemaking to accomplish the same.

“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.”

“We must use every tool at our disposal to take urgent action on climate change,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina M. 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 Massachusetts 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 fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions both nationally and globally, and, if left unchecked, could double within 20 years. 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.

According to the U.S. Climate Alliance, phasing down the use of HFCs will 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.

The legislation proposed by Governor Mills, “An Act to Restrict the Use of Hydrofluorocarbons”, directs the Department of Environmental Protection to do rulemaking that establishes a reasonable and orderly transition to products and equipment that use climate-friendly alternative to HFCs, where alternatives are available, and sets a time-table for that transition, beginning in 2021.

The expected rules will be substantially consistent with those being developed by Massachusetts and Rhode Island as well as other United States Climate Alliance states. In 2019, Governor Mills 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.

Governor Mills’ bipartisan bill was sponsored by Representative Ralph Tucker (D-Brunswick), Chairman of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, and co-sponsored by a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers in the Maine House and Senate, including Senator Robert Foley (R-York), the Republican Senate lead on the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources.

“Maine must join with many other states and nations to restrict the use climate-damaging hydrofluorocarbons,” said Representative Ralph Tucker (D-Brunswick). “The use of HFCs in refrigeration and air conditioning is no longer needed due to safer coolants now developed by American industry. Ton for ton, HFC’s can cause hundreds or even thousands of times more warming of the climate than CO2. Restricting HFCs is ‘low hanging fruit’ in our effort to slow down climate warming. Limiting HFCs will have big impact for little cost.”

“I am pleased to co-sponsor this legislation that sets forth a rulemaking process for the Department of Environmental Protection to begin the elimination of hydrofluorocarbons from use here in Maine,” said Senator Robert Foley (R-Wells). “There are safer, better alternatives that many of our statewide businesses have already switched to or have plans to do so. Establishing consistent rules and regulations in support of that transition is an important role for the legislature to play.”

Maine is working aggressively to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and strengthen its resilience to climate change. Under the leadership of Governor Mills, Maine has purchasing incentives. Governor Mills, along with the Legislature, also established the Maine Climate Council, which is developing Maine-specific strategies to further fight climate change and strengthen the state’s resilience to its impacts.