- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
Media Contact for AG Healey Leads 18 State AGs in Defending Rules on Ozone-Depleting Chemicals
Boston — Attorney General Maura Healey led a coalition of 18 attorneys general in urging the U.S. Supreme Court to review a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that upended the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) longstanding authority under the Clean Air Act to ban dangerous substitutes, such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), for ozone-depleting substances.
Since 1990, the Clean Air Act has required EPA to phase out the production and use of substances that harm the Earth’s stratospheric ozone layer. The Clean Air Act’s “Safe Alternatives Policy” is designed to ensure that this phase-out of harmful ozone-depleting substances does not give rise to dangerous substitute chemicals. Under the Safe Alternatives Policy, EPA is required to publish and update lists of safe and prohibited substitutes for ozone-depleting substances.
“Leading manufacturers have already adopted higher standards that protect the ozone layer, and now the EPA wants to pull the rug out from under them to reward companies that damage the planet with dangerous chemicals,” said AG Healey. “We’re in this case alongside major businesses and environmental groups to defend these commonsense restrictions that make our products safer and protect public health and our environment.”
In 2015, EPA issued a rule prohibiting certain uses of HFCs as a substitute for ozone-depleting substances. HFCs are climate super-pollutants and are commonly used in millions of consumer products, from refrigerators and air-conditioning units to cosmetics, spray cans, and household cleaners. They are among the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas pollution globally, with hundreds to thousands of times the global-warming potential of carbon dioxide. When EPA finalized its HFC rule in 2015, EPA estimated that the rule would avoid 26 to 31 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually by 2020. This would be the equivalent of the emissions of 6.4 million passenger cars driven for year, or the annual energy use for 3.2 million homes.
The coalition attorneys general filed the brief Thursday in support of the Natural Resources Defense Council and Honeywell International Inc.’s petitions for U.S. Supreme Court review of the D.C. Circuit Court’s decision in Mexichem v. EPA. In response to a lawsuit brought by two foreign chemical companies challenging the 2015 Rule, a divided D.C. Circuit Court panel held in that case that EPA can no longer ban all uses of a prohibited substitute under the Clean Air Act’s so-called “safe alternative policy,” no matter how poisonous, explosive, or harmful to the environment the substitute may be.
The attorneys general argue in the brief that the D.C. Circuit’s ruling is legally flawed and disrupted states’ decades-long reliance on EPA’s authority to ban the use of unsafe chemical substitutes. The court upended a strong national program that efficiently and effectively protected human health and the environment from the risks of chemical substitutes, and that promoted innovation and investment in developing safe alternatives. The attorneys general contend that the decision below generated enormous uncertainty for states, their consumers, and their businesses.
Following the D.C. Circuit’s ruling, former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt effectively rescinded the 2015 HFC rule in its entirety in April 2018. Pruitt rolled back the rule by issuing guidance, rather than through a public rulemaking process, as required by federal law. AG Healey was part of a coalition of 12 attorneys general that sued the EPA last month over the rollback of the HFC rule. In the lawsuit, the attorneys general allege that lifting limits on the use of HFCs will damage ongoing efforts to combat climate change.
Joining AG Healey in filing the brief in the Supreme Court are the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, by and through its Pollution Control Agency, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
This matter was handled by Special Assistant Attorney General Megan Herzog, Assistant Attorneys General Amanda Morejon and Seth Schofield, and Christophe Courchesne, Chief of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division.