The Environmental Protection Agency advanced new rules in the president's fight against global warming on Friday, prohibiting chemicals that the agency says are contributing to climate change.
"Today's action delivers on the president's Climate Action Plan and the administration's commitment to acting on climate," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.
She said the agency's prohibition on hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, a class of potent greenhouse gases used in air conditioning, refrigeration and other equipment, moves in step with actions the industry is already taking to phase out the harmful agents.
McCarthy said "leading businesses" are taking action "to reduce and replace HFCs with safer, climate-friendly alternatives."
"This rule will not only reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, but also encourage greater use and development of the next generation of safer HFC alternatives," the administrator added.
HFCs have long been seen as harmful to the layer of the Earth's atmosphere known as the ozone layer, which helps to protect the planet from harmful solar radiation that leads to global increases in temperature. The U.S. and several other countries agreed in the 1980s to phase out HFCs after determining they were the cause of the atmospheric erosion.
The EPA's action Thursday comes a few weeks ahead of a major meeting of industrialized nations to hash out a more stringent HFC agreement, known as the Montreal Protocol. Environmental groups applauded the EPA's timing of the final rule to coincide with the meeting this month.
"Today's action is well-timed to help push for faster phase-down of HFCs in Montreal Protocol negotiations later this month," said David Doniger, the Natural Resources Defense Council's climate change director.
Thursday's rule affects HFCs used in aerosols, foam blowing, motor vehicle air conditioning, retail food refrigeration and vending machines, according to the EPA.
"In many of the sectors addressed by today's rule-making, EPA is also approving several alternatives under its Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Program; the new options offer better climate protection without harming the ozone layer," the agency announced.
The EPA explains that HFC emissions in the the U.S. alone are expected to nearly double in the next five years, and triple by 2030.
"EPA estimates this final rule will reduce greenhouse gas emissions of 54-64 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2025, equal to the carbon dioxide emissions from the annual electricity use of more than 5.8 million homes," according to the agency.
On June 30, the White House and EPA met with the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, climate control firm Honeywell and the chemical company Arkema to discuss the changes to SNAP before rolling the rules out less than three days later. The rules had been under final review by the Office of Management and Budget since the spring.
The June 30 meeting was the only one listed by OMB for the final rule stage of review. However, several meetings were held with groups at the White House when the rules were in their development stage a year ago.