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BALTIMORE (August 17, 2020) – To help meet Maryland’s aggressive climate and environmental goals for reducing greenhouse gases, the Hogan administration today is taking important steps to phase out the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and reduce methane emissions. HFCs and methane are greenhouse gases that are significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.
The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has proposed regulations to phase out the use of certain HFCs in foam products, refrigeration, commercial air-conditioning, and aerosol propellants, recognizing the availability of environmentally preferable alternatives. MDE has also proposed regulations to reduce methane emissions from energy infrastructure and operations. These dual actions will help Maryland meet its requirements under the state’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act.
“This is an important and necessary step in our ongoing efforts to reach Maryland’s greenhouse gas reduction goals,” said Governor Larry Hogan. “Our administration is committed to climate leadership by preventing pollution and partnering with other states to make critical progress in protecting and preserving our environment.”
“These fast-acting super-pollutants are a major threat to our climate progress and deserve to be phased out at the state and federal level,” said Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles. “Our balanced approach continues to seek out market-based solutions that benefit our environment and complement – not compete with – industry-led initiatives.”
In moving to phase out HFCs, Maryland is acting in concert with commitments of the U. S. Climate Alliance and several other states to reduce climate-harming “super pollutants” such as HFCs. HFCs can be hundreds to thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide in contributing to climate change per unit of mass.
Governor Hogan signed into law the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act of 2016, which requires reductions of greenhouse gases in Maryland by 40% by 2030 – requirements that are among the most aggressive in the country and significantly more stringent than those in the Paris Climate Accord – while continuing to have a net positive effect on the economy and job creation. Maryland participates in the U.S. Climate Alliance and is a member of the multi-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
Traditionally, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulated the use of HFCs under a federal Clean Air Act program. However, after two HFC rules issued by the EPA stalled due to legal challenges, states began their own initiatives. MDE’s proposed regulations would reduce HFC emissions by adopting the stalled federal prohibitions for air conditioning and refrigeration equipment, aerosol propellants, and foam uses.
The phase-out of HFCs will encourage the use of widely available alternatives with lower greenhouse gas emissions. Under the proposed regulations, HFC emissions are estimated to be reduced annually by 25% by 2030, representing a total reduction of 4.95 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent over 10 years.
Methane is a prevalent greenhouse gas emitted by human activity.MDE’s proposed regulation will establish requirements to reduce vented and “fugitive” (or leaked) emissions of methane from both new and existing energy facilities.
MDE is also proposing detection, testing, repair, reporting, and record-keeping requirements for these gas facilities in the State. MDE estimates the proposed methane regulations will potentially prevent up to 5,000 metric tons of methane emissions per year through leak surveys, replacement of leaking equipment and components, and inspections.
The proposed HFC and methane regulations were published in the Maryland Register July 17 and July 31, respectively. A public hearing that complies with COVID-19 physical distancing requirements is scheduled for 10 a.m. today on the proposed HFC regulations. A public hearing on the proposed methane regulations is scheduled for August 31. Information on the proposed regulations and the virtual public hearings is available at mde.maryland.gov/programs/Regulations/air/Pages/reqcomments.aspx.