The Consequences of U.S. Refrigerant Regulation Non-Compliance

file photo
file photo credit: Diamantino Rosa

Published Jul 11, 2018 5:23 PM by Bjarne Snopestad

A U.S.-based ship owner will implement enhanced leak detection practices, refrigerant handling routines, technician training program and equipment replacement to address violations of the Clean Air Act resulting from illegal releases of refrigerants.

EPA investigators discovered in 2012 that the HVAC/R equipment on two vessels was leaking refrigerant. The EPA found that the vessel owners and operators failed to repair the leaks in a timely manner and failed to confirm that the heating, ventilation, air conditioning, refrigeration (HVAC/R) equipment was not leaking when finally repaired.

Releases of refrigerants (like R-22 (HCFC)) deplete stratospheric ozone and R-134a (HFC) violate requirements under the Clean Air Act National Recycling and Emission Reduction Program. The Program governs the management of ozone-depleting substances and implements the United States’ mandates under the (1990) Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. The shipowner had violated the regulations set forth in 40 C.F.R. Part 82, Subpart F, and promulgated by EPA pursuant to Section 608 of the Clean Air Act.  

The Complaint against the Defendants alleged that they did not make timely repairs to leaking refrigeration appliances on their vessels, verify that leaks were effectively repaired, employ certified technicians and keep required records in violation of Section 608 of the CAA and the regulations promulgated thereunder at 40 C.F.R. Part 82, Subpart F. 

The ship owner will pay a $135,000 penalty, replace some or all its current HVAC/R equipment with units that use an environmental friendly alternative refrigerant, and retire those not replaced. The company will also implement enhanced leak detection, repair practices, training and certification program. The Consent Decree outlines the Compliance Requirements: Compliance with Applicable Law and a Consent Decree Compliance Plan, which needs to be implemented onboard each ship. In addition, the compliance plan demands a third party verifier (inspection) twice per year per ship.  

Ship owners strive to ensure their vessels comply with applicable laws, however, the reality of budget cuts and cost savings initiatives is a daily struggle. Implementing a compliance plan and best practice operation for HVAC/R equipment has a cost and provides operational cost savings as well. The cost for settling a legal case versus the cost for a best practice operation is a topic that many vessel owners have expressed an interest in.   

BSR Solutions offers technical support programs in line with EPA and E.U. requirements, classification approved training courses for HVAC/R equipment and EPA certification.

Bjarne Snopestad is Founder of BSR Solutions, LLC.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.