Senate approves chemical ban

Senate approves chemical ban
The Washington Senate voted 35-13 in favor of a bill that gradually phases out the use of hydrofluorocarbons used in products such as air conditioners. Photo: freepik.com

The Washington Senate voted 35-13 on April 15 in favor of ESSHB 1112 to gradually phase out the use of hydrofluorocarbons in refrigeration products and air conditioners. Prior to its approval by the Senate, lawmakers revised the bill language to allow some flexibility regarding hydrofluorocarbon products that currently lack a legal substitute chemical.

The bill had previously passed in the House in a 55-39 vote on Mar. 1, and is one of many approved by the legislature this year to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. According to a state Department of Ecology’s most recent report on state emissions published in December, hydrofluorocarbons and other ozone depleting substances (ODS) emitted 3.76 million tons of carbon in 2015, composing 3.9 percent of the 97.4 million tons emitted that year.

Sen. Reuven Carlyle (D-36) told colleagues that “it seems very mundane and simplistic, but…it’s one of those things that’s incredibly feasible for us to make meaningful reductions in, and take a dramatic step forward while at the same time doing so at a responsible cost.”

Hydrofluorocarbons themselves are a substitute for chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) banned by the Montreal Protocol because of their detrimental impact on the ozone. However, state House lawmakers who opposed the bill prior to its Mar. 1 passage argued the legislation harms the agricultural industry which relies heavily on refrigeration to store and transport produce.

ESSHB 1112 sets a timeline for phasing out the chemicals’ use in certain products, starting in 2021. However, an amendment proposed by Sen. Curtis King (R-14) and approved by the Senate delays implementation for a year.

King told colleagues that the bill “requires the use of a lot of materials that unfortunately are not readily available.” He added the year delay “gives the people that produce the materials…and then those that have to make all the changes to their operations…a chance to do it.”

Speaking in favor of the amendment was Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-35), who caucuses with the Senate Republicans. “I’ve been contacted by a local contractor here in Tumwater. He’s very concerned about cost. When you change the standards for equipment in air conditioning and refrigeration…it is expensive, and it takes time. Sometimes there’s inventory that contractors have that would not be usable in the future.”

Opposed to the legislation during its April 4 public hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee were the Washington Food Industry Association, the Washington Air Conditioning Contractors Association and French chemical company Arkema.

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