[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 48 (Wednesday, March 11, 2020)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 14150-14171]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-04773]


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ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

40 CFR Part 82

[EPA-HQ-OAR-2017-0629; FRL-10006-10-OAR]
RIN 2060-AT81


Protection of Stratospheric Ozone: Revisions to the Refrigerant 
Management Program's Extension to Substitutes

AGENCY: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: The Clean Air Act prohibits knowingly venting or releasing 
ozone-depleting and substitute refrigerants in the course of 
maintaining, servicing, repairing, or disposing of appliances or 
industrial process refrigeration. In 2016, the EPA amended the 
regulatory refrigerant management requirements and extended 
requirements that previously applied only to refrigerants containing an 
ozone-depleting substance to substitute refrigerants that are subject 
to the venting prohibition (i.e., those that have not been exempted 
from that prohibition) such as hydrofluorocarbons. Based on changes to 
the legal interpretation that supported that 2016 rule, this action 
revises some of those requirements--specifically, the appliance 
maintenance and leak repair provisions--so they apply only to equipment 
using refrigerant containing an ozone-depleting substance.

DATES: This final rule is effective on April 10, 2020.

ADDRESSES: The EPA has established a docket for this action under 
Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2017-0629. All documents in the docket are 
listed on the www.regulations.gov website. Although listed in the 
index, some information is not publicly available, e.g., confidential 
business information or other information whose disclosure is 
restricted by statute. Certain other material, such as copyrighted 
material, is not placed on the internet and will be publicly available 
only in hard copy form. All other publicly available docket materials 
are available electronically through www.regulations.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeremy Arling by regular mail: U.S. 
Environmental Protection Agency, Stratospheric Protection Division 
(6205T), 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20460; by 
telephone: (202) 343-9055; or by email: [email protected]. More 
information can also be found at: https://www.epa.gov/section608.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

I. General Information

A. What is the National Recycling and Emission Reduction Program?

    Section 608 of the Clean Air Act (CAA), titled ``National Recycling 
and Emission Reduction Program,'' has three main components. First, 
section 608(a) requires the EPA to establish standards and requirements 
regarding the use and disposal of class I and class II substances.\1\ 
The second component, section 608(b), requires that the regulations 
issued pursuant to subsection (a) contain requirements for the safe 
disposal of class I and class II substances. The third component, 
section 608(c), prohibits the knowing venting, release, or disposal of 
ODS refrigerants \2\ and their substitutes \3\ in the course of 
maintaining, servicing, repairing, or disposing of appliances or 
industrial process refrigeration (IPR). The EPA refers to this third 
component as the ``venting prohibition.'' Section 608(c)(1) establishes 
the venting prohibition for ODS refrigerants effective July 1, 1992, 
and it includes an exemption from this prohibition for ``[d]e minimis 
releases associated with good faith attempts to recapture and recycle 
or safely dispose'' any such substance. Section 608(c)(2) extends 
608(c)(1) to substitute refrigerants, effective November 15, 1995. 
Section 608(c)(2) also includes a provision that allows the 
Administrator to exempt a substitute refrigerant from the venting 
prohibition if he or she determines that such venting, release, or 
disposal of a substitute refrigerant ``does not pose a threat to the 
environment.'' \4\
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    \1\ A class I or class II substance is an ozone-depleting 
substance (ODS) listed at 40 CFR part 82, subpart A, appendix A or 
appendix B, respectively. This document refers to class I and class 
II substances collectively as ozone-depleting substances, or ODS.
    \2\ The term ``ODS refrigerant'' as used in this document refers 
to any refrigerant or refrigerant blend in which one or more of the 
components is a class I or class II substance.
    \3\ The term ``substitute'' is defined at Sec.  82.152.
    \4\ The EPA is using the term ``non-exempt substitute'' in this 
document to refer to substitute refrigerants that have not been 
exempted from the venting prohibition under CAA section 608(c)(2) 
and Sec.  82.154(a) in the relevant end-use. Similarly, the term 
``exempt substitute'' refers to a substitute refrigerant that has 
been exempted from the venting prohibition under section 608(c)(2) 
and Sec.  82.154(a) in the relevant end-use. A few exempt 
substitutes have been exempted from the venting prohibition in all 
end-uses.
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    The EPA first issued regulations under section 608 of the CAA on 
May 14, 1993 (58 FR 28660, ``1993 Rule''), to establish the national 
refrigerant management program for ODS refrigerants recovered during 
the service, repair, or disposal of air-conditioning and refrigeration 
appliances. The 1993 Rule required that persons servicing air-
conditioning and refrigeration equipment containing ODS refrigerants 
observe certain practices that reduce emissions. It established

[[Page 14151]]

requirements for refrigerant recovery equipment, reclaimer 
certification, and technician certification, and also restricted the 
sale of ODS refrigerant so that only certified technicians could 
purchase it. In addition, the 1993 Rule required that ODS be removed 
from appliances prior to disposal, and that all air-conditioning and 
refrigeration equipment using an ODS be provided with a servicing 
aperture or process stub to facilitate refrigerant recovery. The 1993 
Rule also established a requirement to repair leaking appliances 
containing more than 50 pounds of ODS refrigerant. The rule set an 
annual leak rate of 35 percent for commercial refrigeration appliances 
and IPR and 15 percent for comfort cooling appliances. If the 
applicable leak rate is exceeded, the appliance must be repaired within 
30 days. Further, consistent with CAA section 608(c)(1), the 1993 Rule 
included a regulatory provision prohibiting the knowing venting or 
release of ODS refrigerant by any person maintaining, servicing, 
repairing, or disposing of an appliance. (58 FR 28714; 40 CFR 82.154(a) 
(1993)). It also provided that such releases would be considered de 
minimis, and therefore not subject to the prohibition, if they occurred 
when certain regulatory requirements were followed. (40 CFR 82.154(a) 
(1993)).
    The EPA revised these regulations, which are found at 40 CFR part 
82, subpart F (``subpart F''), through subsequent rulemakings published 
on August 19, 1994 (59 FR 42950), November 9, 1994 (59 FR 55912), 
August 8, 1995 (60 FR 40420), July 24, 2003 (68 FR 43786), March 12, 
2004 (69 FR 11946), January 11, 2005 (70 FR 1972), April 13, 2005 (70 
FR 19273), May 23, 2014 (79 FR 29682), April 10, 2015 (80 FR 19453), 
and November 18, 2016 (81 FR 82272).
    In the April 2005 rulemaking, the EPA revised the regulatory 
venting prohibition in Sec.  82.154, so that it also applied to non-
exempt substitute refrigerants, and included such substitutes in the 
regulatory provision implementing the de minimis exemption, so that it 
exempted ``de minimis releases associated with good faith attempts to 
recycle or recover refrigerants or non-exempt substitutes'' from the 
prohibition. (70 FR 19278). However, in contrast to how these 
regulations applied to ODS refrigerants, they did not provide that 
releases of non-exempt substitute refrigerants would be considered de 
minimis if certain regulatory requirements were followed.
    Additionally, the 2004 and 2005 rules exempted certain substitute 
refrigerants from the venting prohibition either in specific end uses 
or in all end uses. (See 69 FR 11953-11954; 70 FR 19278; Sec.  
82.154(a) (2005)). The EPA has periodically updated this list of 
exemptions from the venting prohibition in the regulations at Sec.  
82.154(a) since 2005. The EPA also issued proposed rules to revise the 
regulations in subpart F on June 11, 1998 (63 FR 32044), elements of 
which were not finalized, and on December 15, 2010 (75 FR 78558), no 
elements of which were finalized. A more detailed history of these 
regulatory updates can be found at 81 FR 82275.
    On November 18, 2016, the EPA published a rule updating existing 
refrigerant management requirements and extending the full set of the 
subpart F refrigerant management requirements, which prior to that rule 
applied only to ODS refrigerants,\5\ to non-exempt substitute 
refrigerants, such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and hydrofluoroolefins 
(HFOs) (81 FR 82272, ``2016 Rule''). The 2016 Rule also clarified how 
regulated entities could avail themselves of the de minimis exemption 
for non-exempt substitutes. (See, e.g., 81 FR 82283-82285). Among the 
subpart F requirements extended to non-exempt substitute refrigerants 
in the 2016 Rule were provisions that restrict the servicing of 
appliances and the sale of refrigerant to certified technicians, 
specify the proper evacuation levels before opening an appliance, 
require the use of certified refrigerant recovery and/or recycling 
equipment, require that refrigerant be removed from appliances prior to 
disposal, require that appliances have a servicing aperture or process 
stub to facilitate refrigerant recovery, require that refrigerant 
reclaimers be certified to reclaim and sell used refrigerant, and 
establish standards for technician certification programs, recovery 
equipment, and quality of reclaimed refrigerant. The 2016 Rule also 
extended the appliance maintenance and leak repair provisions, 
currently codified at Sec.  82.157, to appliances that contain 50 or 
more pounds of non-exempt substitute refrigerant. For ease of 
reference, in this document the EPA uses the terms ``leak repair 
provisions'' or ``leak repair requirements'' interchangeably to refer 
to all of the provisions at Sec.  82.157. Included in these leak repair 
provisions are requirements to conduct leak rate calculations when 
refrigerant is added to an appliance, repair an appliance that leaks 
above the threshold leak rate applicable to that type of appliance, 
conduct verification tests on repairs, conduct periodic leak 
inspections on appliances that have exceeded the threshold leak rate, 
report to the EPA on chronically leaking appliances, retrofit or retire 
appliances that are not repaired, and maintain related documentation to 
verify compliance. The regulatory changes in the 2016 Rule became 
effective on January 1, 2017, but the revisions to the leak repair 
provisions had a compliance date of January 1, 2019 to allow time for 
the regulated community to prepare for those changes. (81 FR 82343). 
The 2016 Rule additionally made numerous revisions to improve the 
efficacy of the refrigerant management program as a whole, such as 
revisions of regulatory provisions for increased clarity and 
readability, and removal of provisions that had become obsolete.
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    \5\ The only subpart F requirements that applied to substitute 
refrigerants prior to the 2016 Rule were the venting prohibition and 
certain exemptions from that prohibition, as set forth in Sec.  
82.154(a).
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    Two industry coalitions, the National Environmental Development 
Association's Clean Air Project (NEDA/CAP) and the Air Permitting Forum 
(APF), filed petitions for judicial review of the 2016 Rule in the U.S. 
Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (D.C. Circuit), 
and the cases have been consolidated. (See NEDA/CAP v. EPA, No. 17-1016 
(D.C. Cir. filed January 17, 2017); APF v. EPA, No. 17-1017 (D.C. Cir. 
filed January 17, 2017)). The Chemours Company, Honeywell International 
Inc., the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Alliance for 
Responsible Atmospheric Policy are participating as intervenor-
respondents in that litigation, in support of the 2016 Rule. In 
addition, APF has filed a petition with the EPA for administrative 
reconsideration of the 2016 Rule. The petition for reconsideration is 
available in the docket for this action and raises several issues 
regarding changes made in the 2016 Rule, such as the EPA's statutory 
authority for its decision in the 2016 Rule to expand the scope of the 
refrigerant management requirements--including, but not limited to, 
leak repair requirements--to cover non-exempt substitute refrigerants. 
Honeywell International Inc. submitted a document styled as a response 
to APF's petition for reconsideration, which is also available in the 
docket for this action.

B. Does this action apply to me?

    Categories and entities potentially affected by this action include 
those who own or operate refrigeration and

[[Page 14152]]

air-conditioning appliances. Potentially affected entities include, but 
are not limited to, the following:

                 Table 1--Potentially Affected Entities
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                                 North American
                                    Industry             Examples of
          Category               Classification      regulated entities
                               System (NAICS) code
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Industrial Process            111, 11251, 11511,    Owners or operators
 Refrigeration (IPR).          21111, 2211, 2212,    of refrigeration
                               2213, 311, 3121,      equipment used in
                               3221, 3222, 32311,    agriculture and
                               32411, 3251, 32512,   crop production,
                               3252, 3253, 32541,    oil and gas
                               3256, 3259, 3261,     extraction, ice
                               3262, 3324, 3328,     rinks, and the
                               33324, 33341,         manufacture of
                               33361, 3341, 3344,    frozen food, dairy
                               3345, 3346, 3364,     products, food and
                               33911, 339999.        beverages, ice,
                                                     petrochemicals,
                                                     chemicals,
                                                     machinery, medical
                                                     equipment,
                                                     plastics, paper,
                                                     and electronics.
Commercial Refrigeration....  42374, 42393, 42399,  Owners or operators
                               4242, 4244, 42459,    of refrigerated
                               42469, 42481,         warehousing and
                               42493, 4451, 4452,    storage facilities,
                               45291, 48422, 4885,   supermarkets,
                               4931, 49312, 72231.   grocery stores,
                                                     warehouse clubs,
                                                     supercenters,
                                                     convenience stores,
                                                     and refrigerated
                                                     transport.
Comfort Cooling.............  45211, 45299,         Owners or operators
                               453998, 512, 522,     of air-conditioning
                               524, 531, 5417,       equipment used in
                               551, 561, 6111,       the following:
                               6112, 6113, 61151,    Hospitals, office
                               622, 7121, 71394,     buildings, colleges
                               721, 722, 813, 92.    and universities,
                                                     metropolitan
                                                     transit
                                                     authorities, real
                                                     estate rental &
                                                     leased properties,
                                                     lodging and food
                                                     services, property
                                                     management,
                                                     schools, and public
                                                     administration or
                                                     other public
                                                     institutions.
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    This list is not intended to be exhaustive, but rather to provide a 
guide for readers regarding entities likely to be affected by this 
action. To determine whether your facility, company, business, or 
organization could be affected by this action, you should carefully 
examine the regulations at 40 CFR part 82, subpart F and the revisions 
below. If you have questions regarding the applicability of this action 
to a particular entity, consult the person listed in the FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT section.

C. What action is the agency taking?

    The EPA reviewed the 2016 Rule, focusing in particular on whether 
the agency had the statutory authority to extend the full set of 
subpart F refrigerant management regulations to non-exempt substitute 
refrigerants, such as HFCs and HFOs. Based on that review, 
Administrator Pruitt signed a letter on August 10, 2017 stating that 
the EPA is ``planning to issue a proposed rule to revisit aspects of 
the 2016 Rule's extension of the 40 CFR part 82, subpart F refrigerant 
management requirements to non-exempt substitutes.'' \6\ Consistent 
with that letter, in 2018 the agency proposed to withdraw the extension 
of the provisions at Sec.  82.157 to appliances using only non-exempt 
substitute refrigerants.\7\ (83 FR 43922). As discussed above, these 
provisions include requirements related to appliance maintenance and 
leak repair. This action finalizes that proposed withdrawal and will 
relieve businesses from having to repair leaks, conduct leak 
inspections, and keep records for appliances containing only substitute 
refrigerant.
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    \6\ Letter from the EPA to National Environmental Development 
Association's Clean Air Project and the Air Permitting Forum (Aug. 
10, 2017), available at www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2017-08/documents/608_update_letter.pdf and in the docket to this rule.
    \7\ Ozone-depleting refrigerants and appliances that contain or 
use any amount of ODS continue to be subject to all applicable 
subpart F requirements, including those in Sec.  82.157.
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    The 2018 proposal also requested comment on whether to withdraw the 
2016 Rule's extension of the full set of subpart F provisions to non-
exempt substitute refrigerants. Subpart F includes provisions that 
restrict the servicing of appliances and the sale of refrigerant to 
certified technicians, specify the proper evacuation levels before 
opening an appliance, require the use of certified refrigerant recovery 
and/or recycling equipment, require that refrigerant be removed from 
appliances prior to disposal, require that appliances have a servicing 
aperture or process stub to facilitate refrigerant recovery, require 
that refrigerant reclaimers be certified to reclaim and sell used 
refrigerant, and establish standards for technician certification 
programs, recovery equipment, and quality of reclaimed refrigerant (40 
CFR part 82, subpart F). In this action the EPA is not making any 
changes to the subpart F provisions other than (1) limiting the 
applicability of the leak repair provisions in Sec.  82.157 to 
appliances that use ODS refrigerants or a blend containing ODS 
refrigerants and (2) correspondingly clarifying that the reference to 
Sec.  82.157 in Sec.  82.154(a)(2)(i) (the regulatory provision 
implementing the de minimis exemption to the venting prohibition) only 
applies for appliances that contain ODS refrigerants (including in a 
blend). Consistent with the proposal, this action does not change any 
of the regulatory requirements for ODS in 40 CFR part 82, subpart F.

D. What is the agency's authority for taking this action?

    This action is based on changes to a legal interpretation of the 
EPA's authority under CAA section 608 that supported the extension of 
the leak repair requirements at Sec.  82.157 to non-exempt substitute 
refrigerants in the 2016 Rule. As described in greater detail in 
Section II below, the EPA concludes that, as a legal matter, the 2016 
Rule's extension of the leak repair requirements to non-exempt 
substitute refrigerants exceeded the EPA's statutory authority under 
CAA section 608. Accordingly, the EPA is rescinding the 2016 Rule's 
extension of the leak repair requirements to non-exempt substitutes. 
However, the EPA continues to interpret section 608 as providing the 
agency some authority to regulate substitutes. That includes authority 
to issue regulations that interpret, explain, and enforce the venting 
prohibition and the de minimis exemption under section 608(c) or that 
are necessary to fulfill the purposes set forth in section 608(a)(3) 
(i.e., to reduce the use and emission of ODS to the lowest achievable 
level or to maximize the recapture and recycling of ODS). Because the 
extension of the non-leak repair provisions in subpart F to non-exempt 
substitute refrigerants remains within the scope of the EPA's authority 
under 608 under the revised statutory interpretation described in this 
action, the extension of those requirements is not being rescinded.

[[Page 14153]]

E. What are the incremental costs and benefits of this action?

    Although this action is based on changes in the EPA's statutory 
interpretation, the agency is providing a summary of incremental costs 
and benefits associated with this action for purposes of transparency 
and public information. Using a 7% discount rate, agency analyses 
indicate that rescinding the extension of the leak repair provisions to 
non-exempt substitutes reduces the burden associated with the 2016 Rule 
by approximately $39 million per year. The EPA also estimates this rule 
will increase the need to purchase non-exempt substitute refrigerant 
for leaking appliances, at an overall cost of approximately $15 million 
per year. Thus, incremental compliance savings and increased 
refrigerant costs combined are estimated to be a reduction of at least 
$24 million per year. These estimates are somewhat lower if a 3% 
discount rate is used. The EPA estimates that this action will result 
in forgone annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions benefits of 
about 3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent 
(MMTCO2e). This rule will not result in an increase in ODS 
emissions.
    Table 2 presents a summary of the annual costs, forgone emission 
reductions, and benefits associated with rescinding the extension of 
the leak repair provisions to non-exempt substitutes, using a 7% or a 
3% discount rate, respectively.

                                       Table 2--Annual Costs and Benefits
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                                               Rescinding extension of leak repair provisions to non-exempt
                                                                        substitutes
                                         -----------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                   7% Discount rate                    3% Discount rate
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Cost Savings (Burden Reduction).........  $38,958,000.......................  $35,264,000.
Total Cost (Refrigerant Replacement)....  -$14,874,000......................  -$14,874,000.
Net Cost Savings........................  $24,084,000.......................  $20,390,000.
Forgone Emissions Reductions (non-        2.946 MMTCO2e.....................  2.946 MMTCO2e.
 monetized disbenefit).
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    Additional discussion of these analyses can be found in Section III 
of this document and in the Analysis of the Economic Impact of the 
Proposed 2018 Revisions to the National Recycling and Emission 
Reduction Program in the docket.

II. The Final Rule

A. Legal Background and the 2016 Rule

    This action results from the EPA's decision to revisit aspects of 
the 2016 Rule's extension of the 40 CFR part 82, subpart F refrigerant 
management requirements to non-exempt substitutes. That process 
resulted in changes to the legal interpretation supporting the 2016 
Rule, which are reflected in this action. For context, we begin by 
summarizing the key statutory provisions and the EPA's view of its 
legal authority as presented in the 2016 Rule. The discussion of the 
EPA's statutory authority to extend refrigerant management requirements 
to non-exempt substitute refrigerants in the 2016 Rule focused 
primarily on CAA section 608, especially on sections 608(c) and 608(a). 
(See generally 81 FR 82284-82288).
    Section 608(a) requires the EPA to establish standards and 
requirements regarding the use and disposal of class I and class II 
substances. With regard to refrigerants, under sections 608(a)(1) and 
608(a)(2), the EPA is required to promulgate regulations establishing 
standards and requirements for the use and disposal of class I and 
class II substances, respectively, during the service, repair, or 
disposal of air-conditioning and refrigeration appliances and IPR.\8\ 
Section 608(a)(3) provides that regulations under section 608(a) are to 
include requirements to reduce the use and emission of ODS to the 
lowest achievable level, and to maximize the recapture and recycling of 
such substances. Section 608(a)(3) further provides that ``[s]uch 
regulations may include requirements to use alternative substances 
(including substances which are not class I or class II substances) or 
to minimize use of class I or class II substances, or to promote the 
use of safe alternatives pursuant to section [612] or any combination 
of the foregoing.'' \9\
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    \8\ We note that section 608(a) is not limited to refrigerants, 
and that the EPA has applied its authority under section 608(a) to 
establish or consider regulations for ODS in non-refrigerant 
applications. See, e.g., 63 FR 11084.
    \9\ While section 608(a)(3) provides that the regulations issued 
under section 608(a) ``may include requirements to use alternative 
substances (including substances which are not class I or class II 
substances), . . . or to promote the use of safe alternatives 
pursuant to section [612]'', the EPA is not relying upon these 
provisions in 608(a)(3) in this document, as the regulatory changes 
effected by the 2016 Rule, which today's action partially rescinds, 
do not relate to requirements to use substitutes or promote their 
use pursuant to section 612. (In implementing Title VI, the EPA has 
at times used the terms ``alternative'' and ``substitute'' 
interchangeably. See, e.g., 81 FR 86779, n.1; 81 FR 82276, 82291.) 
Furthermore, the EPA did not rely on these authorities in 608(a)(3) 
in extending the refrigerant management requirements to substitute 
refrigerants in the 2016 Rule, and it is not relying on them in 
addressing the underlying questions of statutory interpretation at 
issue here.
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    Section 608(c) establishes a self-effectuating prohibition, 
commonly called the ``venting prohibition.'' \10\ Section 608(c)(1), 
effective July 1, 1992, makes it unlawful for any person, in the course 
of maintaining, servicing, repairing, or disposing of an appliance or 
IPR to knowingly vent, release, or dispose of any ODS used as a 
refrigerant in such equipment in a manner that permits that substance 
to enter the environment. Section 608(c)(1) also includes an exemption 
from this prohibition for ``[d]e minimis releases associated with good 
faith attempts to recapture and recycle or safely dispose'' of such a 
substance. Section 608(c)(2) states that, effective November 15, 1995, 
``paragraph (1) shall also apply to the venting, release, or disposal 
of any substitute substance for a class I or class II substance by any 
person maintaining, servicing, repairing, or disposing of an appliance 
or [IPR] which contains and uses as a refrigerant any such substance, 
unless the Administrator determines that venting, releasing, or 
disposing of such substance does not pose a threat to the 
environment.'' The EPA interprets section 608(c)(2)'s extension of 
section 608(c)(1) to substitute refrigerants to extend both the 
prohibition on venting and the de minimis exemption to non-exempt 
substitute refrigerants. This is a long-held position which the EPA is 
not revisiting in this action. (See, e.g., 69 FR 11949, March 12, 2004; 
and 70 FR 19274-19275, April 13, 2005). Section 608(c) does not 
expressly provide that the EPA may write regulations under that 
section. Section 301, however, states that the ``Administrator is

[[Page 14154]]

authorized to prescribe such regulations as are necessary to carry out 
his functions under [the Clean Air Act].''
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    \10\ In this context, the EPA uses the term ``self-
effectuating'' to mean that the statutory prohibition on venting is 
itself legally binding even in the absence of implementing 
regulations.
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    In the 2016 Rule, the EPA interpreted section 608 of the CAA as 
being ambiguous with regard to the agency's authority to establish 
refrigerant management regulations for non-exempt substitute 
refrigerants because Congress had not precisely spoken to this issue. 
Accordingly, the EPA took the view that it had the discretion under 
Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837, 
843-44 (1984), to interpret section 608 as providing the EPA with 
authority to extend all aspects of its refrigerant management 
regulations under section 608 to non-exempt substitute refrigerants, 
including those regulations that had previously only applied to ODS 
refrigerants. (See 81 FR 82283). The 2016 Rule explained that section 
608(a) expressly requires the EPA to issue regulations that apply to 
class I and class II substances, but it does not expressly address 
whether the EPA could establish the same refrigerant management 
practices for substitute substances. On the other hand, section 
608(c)(2) explicitly mentions substitute refrigerants and directly 
applies the provisions for ODS refrigerants in section 608(c)(1) to 
them. The 2016 Rule noted that this created a tension in the regulatory 
scheme for substitute refrigerants because the regulated community is 
subject to the prohibition on knowing venting, releasing, or disposing 
of non-exempt substitute refrigerants while maintaining, servicing, 
repairing, or disposing of air conditioning and refrigeration equipment 
but at the same time section 608(a) does not direct the EPA to 
promulgate regulations requiring the regulated community to recover 
non-exempt substitute refrigerant prior to servicing or disposing of 
such equipment or to engage in any of the practices or behaviors that 
the EPA has established to minimize the emission and release of ODS 
refrigerants during such maintenance, service, repair, or disposal. The 
2016 Rule further explained that while the subpart F regulations made 
clear that ODS refrigerant releases would be considered de minimis if 
(and only if) certain regulatory requirements were followed, the rules 
did not provide any such clarity regarding what practices regulated 
parties must follow to qualify for the de minimis exemption, and 
thereby comply with the venting prohibition, for non-exempt substitute 
refrigerants. (See 81 FR 82284).
    In the 2016 Rule, the EPA grounded its authority for the extension 
of refrigerant requirements to non-exempt substitute refrigerants 
largely on section 608(c), which the EPA interpreted to provide it 
authority to promulgate regulations that interpret, explain, and 
enforce the venting prohibition and the de minimis exemption as they 
apply to non-exempt substitute refrigerants. (See 81 FR 82283-82284). 
In reaching this interpretation, the EPA relied in part on a policy 
rationale that by establishing a comprehensive and consistent framework 
that applies to both ODS and non-exempt substitute refrigerants, the 
2016 Rule would provide clarity to the regulated community concerning 
the measures that should be taken to comply with the venting 
prohibition for non-exempt substitutes and would thus reduce confusion 
and enhance compliance for both ODS and non-exempt substitutes. The EPA 
further explained its view in the 2016 Rule that the extension of 
requirements under section 608 to non-exempt substitutes was also 
supported by section 608(a) because having a consistent regulatory 
framework for non-exempt substitutes and ODS is expected to reduce 
emissions of ODS refrigerants. In addition, the EPA located 
supplemental authority for the 2016 Rule in section 301(a), which 
provides authority for the EPA to ``prescribe such regulations as are 
necessary to carry out [the EPA Administrator's] functions'' under the 
Act. Id. Further, the EPA identified section 114, which provides 
authority to the EPA Administrator to require recordkeeping and 
reporting in carrying out provisions of the CAA, as providing 
supplemental authority to extend the recordkeeping and reporting 
requirements to non-exempt substitutes. Id.

B. The EPA's Reassessment of Its Legal Authority Under Section 608

    The EPA's ability to revisit existing regulations is well-grounded 
in the law. Specifically, the EPA has inherent authority to reconsider, 
repeal, or revise past decisions to the extent permitted by law so long 
as the agency provides a reasoned explanation. See, e.g., Encino 
Motorcars LLC v. Navarro, 136 S.Ct. 2117, 2125 (2016). The authority to 
reconsider prior decisions exists in part because the EPA's 
interpretations of statutes it administers ``[are not] instantly carved 
in stone,'' but must be evaluated ``on a continuing basis.'' Chevron 
U.S.A. Inc. v. NRDC, Inc., 467 U.S. 837, 863-64 (1984). This is true 
when, as is the case here, review is undertaken ``in response to . . . 
a change in administrations.'' National Cable & Telecommunications 
Ass'n v. Brand X Internet Services, 545 U.S. 967, 981 (2005). Indeed, 
``[a]gencies obviously have broad discretion to reconsider a regulation 
at any time.'' Clean Air Council v. Pruitt, 862 F.3d 1, 8-9 (D.C. Cir. 
2017). Similarly, the fact that an agency has previously adopted one 
interpretation of a statute does not preclude it from later exercising 
its discretion to change its interpretation. National Cable & 
Telecommunications Ass'n, 545 U.S. at 981. In addition, an agency may 
``justify its policy choice by explaining why that policy `is more 
consistent with statutory language' than alternative policies.'' Encino 
Motorcars, 136 S.Ct. at 2127 (quoting Long Island Care at Home Ltd. v. 
Coke, 551 U.S. 158, 175 (2007)). The CAA complements the EPA's inherent 
authority to reconsider prior rulemakings by providing the agency with 
broad authority to prescribe regulations as necessary to carry out the 
agency's functions under the CAA in section 301(a).
    In this action the agency has reassessed the 2016 Rule's assertion 
of legal authority to extend the full set of subpart F requirements to 
non-exempt substitute refrigerants under CAA section 608. While the 
agency is retaining aspects of the interpretation that supported the 
2016 Rule, it is revising that interpretation in some important 
respects for greater consistency with the statutory text, structure, 
and purposes, as described below. As in the 2016 Rule, the EPA 
continues to interpret section 608 as being ambiguous with regard to 
the agency's authority to establish refrigerant management regulations 
for non-exempt substitute refrigerants. Sections 608(a)(1) and (2) 
explicitly require the EPA to promulgate regulations regarding the use 
and disposal of ODS but as these provisions make no mention of 
substitutes they neither expressly preclude nor expressly authorize 
regulation of substitutes for the purpose of achieving the ODS goals of 
those provisions. Section 608(c)(2) does expressly mention substitute 
refrigerants, but that provision focuses on prohibiting knowing 
releases of substitute refrigerants in the course of specific 
activities (maintenance, service, repair, and disposal) and on 
providing an exemption for de minimis releases without specifying the 
mechanisms for carrying out this prohibition and exemption. Thus, 
Congress did not precisely delineate in section 608 the scope of the 
EPA's authority to regulate substitute refrigerants by issuing 
refrigerant management regulations.
    The EPA also continues to believe that it is reasonable to 
interpret both sections 608(a) and (c) as providing authority that 
could support the extension of certain subpart F

[[Page 14155]]

requirements to non-exempt substitute refrigerants. The EPA maintains 
the position that section 608(c) is reasonably construed as providing 
the agency discretionary authority to interpret, explain, and enforce 
the venting prohibition and the de minimis exemption for substitute 
refrigerants, as section 608(c)(2) incorporates both the prohibition 
and the exemption and applies them to substitutes. Thus, these are both 
elements in the statutory regime that the EPA is entrusted to 
administer for substitute refrigerants. The fact that Congress extended 
the de minimis exemption for ``releases associated with good faith 
attempts to recapture and recycle or safely dispose of any such 
substance'' to substitutes under section 608(c)(2) but did not specify 
what practices or actions should be taken to qualify for this 
exemption, creates a statutory ambiguity that the EPA can resolve 
through regulation. However, section 608(c) is limited in the scope of 
releases and activities it addresses: It specifically covers knowing 
venting, release, or disposal of substitute refrigerants in the course 
of maintaining, servicing, repairing, or disposing of appliances. To 
the extent that the subpart F provisions extended to non-exempt 
substitutes in the 2016 Rule address the potential for such releases 
during one of these covered activities, those provisions continue to be 
within the scope of the EPA's authority under section 608(c) under the 
interpretation supporting this action.
    As for section 608(a), section 608(a)(3) requires the agency to 
issue regulations that reduce the use and emission of ODS to the lowest 
achievable level and maximize the recapture and recycling of such 
substances. While section 608(a)(3) contains discretionary language 
about what requirements those regulations may include, it does not 
contain any more specific mandates about how the required objectives 
should be achieved. Given this ambiguity, the EPA reasonably interprets 
section 608(a) to provide authority to issue regulations that reduce 
the use and emission of ODS to the lowest achievable level or that 
maximize the recapture and recycling of such substances, even if the 
regulations do not directly regulate ODS. Thus, as in the 2016 Rule, to 
the extent that the extension of certain subpart F requirements to non-
exempt substitutes is necessary to achieve the purposes set forth in 
section 608(a)(3) (i.e., reducing the use and emission of ODS to the 
lowest achievable level or maximizing the recapture and recycling of 
such substances), the EPA concludes that the extension is within the 
ambit of its authority under section 608(a).
    In contrast to the 2016 Rule, however, the EPA has concluded that 
its statutory authority under section 608, taking that authority as a 
whole, does not extend as far with respect to substitutes as it does 
with respect to ODS. This conclusion is supported by the text and 
structure of section 608. The fact that Congress specifically included 
the term ``substitutes'' in section 608(c) but not in sections 
608(a)(1) or (2), contrasted with the express references to ODS (class 
I and class II substances) in both subsections, suggests that the EPA's 
authority to address substitutes under section 608 is more limited than 
its authority to address ODS. If Congress had intended to convey 
authority to the EPA to promulgate the same, full set of refrigerant 
management requirements for substitutes as for ODS, it is reasonable to 
expect that Congress would have expressly included substitutes in 
sections 608(a)(1) or (2), as it did for section 608(c)--but it did 
not. In addition, the differences in the verbs used in section 608(a) 
(authorizing regulations related to the ``use and disposal'' of ODS 
``including use and disposal during service, repair, or disposal'' of 
appliances) compared to those used in section 608(c) (prohibiting 
knowing releases ``in the course of maintaining, servicing, repairing, 
or disposing'' of appliances) further supports the conclusion that 
Congress envisioned that the regulations under section 608(a) would 
affect a broader range of activities than those under section 608(c), 
as regulations under section 608(a) could address any use or disposal 
of ODS, rather than being limited to particular activities.
    In sum, while the EPA continues to interpret section 608 to provide 
some authority to regulate substitute refrigerants, the EPA now reads 
sections 608(a) and (c) together to determine that its authority is 
more limited for substitute refrigerants than for ODS. In addition, the 
EPA continues to interpret CAA section 301(a), which provides that the 
EPA may ``prescribe such regulations as are necessary to carry out [the 
EPA Administrator's] functions'' under the Act, to supplement its 
authority to issue regulations necessary to address substitute 
refrigerants under section 608(c). Further, the agency continues to 
interpret CAA section 114, which provides authority to the EPA 
Administrator to require recordkeeping and reporting in carrying out 
provisions of the CAA, as providing supplemental authority to extend 
the subpart F recordkeeping and reporting requirements to non-exempt 
substitutes.

C. The EPA Lacked Authority Under Section 608 To Extend Leak Repair 
Requirements To Substitute Refrigerants

    Applying the interpretive framework described in Section II.B 
above, the EPA has re-examined whether the 2016 Rule's extension of the 
leak repair requirements to appliances that contain only substitute 
refrigerants was within its authority under section 608, either as (1) 
an appropriate means of interpreting, explaining, and enforcing the 
venting prohibition and the de minimis exemption under section 608(c), 
or (2) as regulations that are necessary to fulfill the purposes of 
section 608(a) to reduce the use and emission of ODS to the lowest 
achievable level or to maximize the recapture and recycling of ODS. As 
described further below, based on that legal analysis, the agency 
concludes that the extension of the leak repair requirements to non-
exempt substitute refrigerants exceeded the EPA's legal authority under 
section 608 because it relied on an unreasonable interpretation of that 
authority. Consequently, the EPA determines that the extension of the 
leak repair requirements to non-exempt substitute refrigerants must be 
rescinded and is finalizing that rescission in this action. This 
rescission is also consistent with the agency's view that the scope of 
its authority under section 608 is more limited for substitutes than 
for ODS, and the EPA today is finalizing changes to its subpart F 
regulations to conform those regulations to its interpretation of the 
statute.
i. Section 608(c)
    To justify the extension of the leak repair requirements to non-
exempt substitute refrigerants in the 2016 Rule, the EPA reversed its 
longstanding position that ``topping off'' leaking appliances was not 
knowing venting or a knowing release of refrigerant in the course of 
maintaining, servicing, repairing, or disposing of an appliance within 
the meaning of section 608(c). The EPA's historic position, and the one 
that the agency is returning to through this action, is that 
refrigerant released during the normal operation of an appliance is 
generally not subject to the venting prohibition.
    When establishing the original leak repair provisions in 1993, the 
EPA stated that:

    [T]he venting prohibition itself, which applies to the 
maintenance, service, repair, and disposal of equipment, does not 
prohibit ``topping off'' systems, which leads to emissions of 
refrigerant during the use of equipment. The provision on knowing 
releases does, however, include the situation in which a technician 
is practically certain

[[Page 14156]]

that his or her conduct will cause a release of refrigerant during 
the maintenance, service, repair, or disposal of equipment. Knowing 
releases also include situations in which a technician closes his or 
her eyes to obvious facts or fails to investigate them when aware of 
facts that demand investigation. [58 FR 28672.]

    In the 2016 Rule, the EPA changed the agency's interpretation of 
the venting prohibition as part of the rationale that supported 
applying the leak repair requirements to non-exempt substitute 
refrigerants. The EPA stated in the 2016 Rule that it:

concludes that its statements in the 1993 Rule presented an overly 
narrow interpretation of the statutory venting prohibition. 
Consistent with the direction articulated in the proposed 2010 Leak 
Repair Rule, EPA is adopting a broader interpretation. When 
refrigerant must be added to an existing appliance, other than when 
originally charging the system or for a seasonal variance, the owner 
or operator necessarily knows that the system has leaks. At that 
point the owner or operator is required to calculate the leak rate. 
If the leaks exceed the applicable leak rate for that particular 
type of appliance, the owner or operator will know that absent 
repairs, subsequent additions of refrigerant will be released in a 
manner that will permit the refrigerant to enter the environment. 
Therefore, EPA interprets section 608(c) such that if a person adds 
refrigerant to an appliance that he or she knows is leaking, he or 
she also violates the venting prohibition unless he or she has 
complied with the applicable practices referenced in Sec.  
82.154(a)(2), as revised, including the leak repair requirements, as 
applicable. [81 FR 82285.] \11\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \11\ The EPA did not finalize the 2010 leak repair proposal (75 
FR 78558). As noted in the 2016 Rule (81 FR 82275), the EPA withdrew 
the 2010 proposal in the 2016 rulemaking and re-proposed elements on 
the 2010 proposal in the notice of proposed rulemaking (80 FR 69461) 
for the 2016 Rule.

    The EPA now concludes that this 2016 interpretation was 
unreasonable and that extending the leak repair provisions to 
substitute refrigerants exceeded the scope of the agency's authority 
under section 608(c)(2). The leak repair provisions include 
requirements to determine whether an appliance is leaking above the 
threshold leak rate applicable to that type of appliance, to repair an 
appliance that leaks above the applicable leak rate, and to conduct 
verification tests and periodic leak inspections on appliances that 
have exceeded the threshold leak rate, as well as requirements to 
retrofit or retire appliances that are not repaired and recordkeeping 
and reporting requirements. The 2016 interpretation is an unreasonable 
reading of section 608(c)(2) because the refrigerant releases from such 
leaks typically occur during the normal operation of the appliance, 
rather than ``in the course of maintaining, servicing, repairing, or 
disposing of'' an appliance. The operational leaks that trigger the 
leak repair provisions may take the form of a slow leak that results in 
the need to add refrigerant, and such releases occur in the weeks or 
months prior to the servicing event. Leaks may also result from an 
unintended catastrophic failure, which leads to a subsequent service 
event to recharge the appliance. Neither of these types of releases 
typically occur in the course of maintaining, servicing, repairing, or 
disposing of an appliance. Rather, in these situations the release of 
refrigerant typically occurs before the servicing event, and the owner 
or operator may not be aware of the release until it affects equipment 
performance. The EPA has always understood that few appliances are 
leak-free, which further supports the notion that leaks commonly occur 
during the normal operation of an appliance, rather than during 
appliance maintenance, service, repair, or disposal.\12\ The EPA has 
also recognized that ``[t]his is particularly likely for larger and 
more complicated appliances like those subject to the subpart F leak 
repair provisions.'' (81 FR 82313).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \12\ Recognizing that appliances can leak during their normal 
operation, Sec.  82.157(g) requires periodic leak inspections of 
appliances with 50 or more pounds of refrigerant that have been 
repaired after leaking above the applicable threshold rate. 
Automatic leak detection equipment is also allowed in lieu of 
inspections for such appliances, or portions of such appliances.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In addition, while the 2016 Rule cited various dictionary 
definitions of the term ``maintain'' to support an interpretation that 
the inclusion of the concept of maintenance in section 608(c) covered a 
broad range of activities involved in preserving equipment in normal 
working order (see 81 FR 82291), the EPA does not believe that Congress 
intended the statutory term ``maintaining'' in section 608(c) to 
include the normal operation of an appliance. Congress did use broad 
language in 608(a) (``use . . . of class I and class II substances'') 
that encompasses activities during normal operation of appliances. If 
Congress had intended for 608(c) to apply to normal operations, it 
could have included the term ``use'' in section 608(c), as it did in 
section 608(a)--but it did not. In addition, the term appears in 
section 608(c) as part of a group with three other terms (``servicing, 
repairing, or disposing'') that are distinct from normal operation of 
an appliance. Thus, reading the term in the overall context of section 
608, the EPA does not believe that it is reasonable to interpret 
``maintaining'' to include the normal operation of the appliance.
    The EPA is accordingly returning to the agency's reasonable 
interpretation of 608(c) with respect to leaks, which had been long-
held until it was revised in the 2016 Rule. Based on this change in 
interpretation, the EPA therefore concludes that the leak repair 
provisions apply to activities and releases that are too distinct from 
those identified in section 608(c) to provide the EPA with regulatory 
authority to extend the leak repair regulations to non-exempt 
substitute refrigerants.\13\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \13\ Furthermore, the leak repair provisions are not 
sufficiently related to ``good faith attempts to recapture and 
recycle or safely dispose'' of refrigerant under the de minimis 
exemption in section 608(c) for that provision to provide 
independent authority for the extension of the leak repair 
requirements to non-exempt substitute refrigerants.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The EPA notes that under this interpretation the venting 
prohibition under section 608(c) would continue to apply to actions 
taken in the course of maintaining, servicing, repairing, or disposing 
of appliances containing non-exempt substitute refrigerant, including 
those containing 50 or more pounds of such refrigerant. For example, 
knowing release from cutting refrigerant lines when disposing of an 
appliance is prohibited. Similarly, opening an appliance to repair a 
component without first isolating it and recovering the refrigerant 
would typically lead to a knowing release of refrigerant to the 
environment during the service, maintenance, or repair of an appliance 
and thus would also be prohibited. It is also possible that some 
``topping off'' may occur in an appliance with a leak that is so 
visible, audible, or frequent that adding refrigerant to the appliance 
creates the practical certainty that the refrigerant will be released 
contemporaneously with the servicing event to add refrigerant and 
therefore may constitute a knowing release subject to the venting 
prohibition. For example, hearing hissing or noticing a ruptured line 
while continuing to add refrigerant to an appliance would constitute a 
knowing release. However, the EPA has no information to suggest that 
this occurs in a substantial number of situations, and the mere 
possibility of such an event does not justify a blanket interpretation 
that ``topping off'' an appliance that has leaked, absent adherence to 
the requirements at Sec.  82.157, is necessarily and per se a violation 
of 608(c).

[[Page 14157]]

ii. Section 608(a)
    The EPA stated in the preamble to the 2016 Rule that the agency's 
authority for extending the refrigerant management regulations to 
substitute refrigerants is based in part on section 608(a), in light of 
the corresponding reductions in ODS emissions and increases in ODS 
recapture and recycling that are expected to result from requiring 
consistent practices for ODS and substitute refrigerants. (81 FR 
82288). In part, this was based on the potential for cross-
contamination, refrigerant mixing, and related releases from ODS 
appliances in the absence of consistent practices. The response to 
comments for the 2016 Rule \14\ also noted, in the context of 
explaining the EPA's authority for the revisions to Sec.  82.157, that 
providing a consistent standard for ODS and non-exempt substitute 
refrigerants would reduce emissions of ODS by reducing the incidence of 
failure to follow the requirements for ODS appliances due to 
refrigerant confusion. However, in neither discussion did the EPA 
address whether, if all other subpart F requirements were extended to 
non-exempt substitutes, it would be necessary to also extend Sec.  
82.157 to non-exempt substitute refrigerants to serve the purposes of 
section 608(a), as articulated in sections 608(a)(3)(A) and (B).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \14\ Response to Comments for the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: 
Protection of Stratospheric Ozone: Update to the Refrigerant 
Management Requirements under the Clean Air Act, pages 13-14 (pdf 
pages 18-19). Available at: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OAR-2015-0453-0226.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    After further consideration, the EPA believes that these statements 
in the 2016 Rule, which were advanced generally and without distinction 
to support extending all the subpart F requirements to non-exempt 
substitute refrigerants, failed to recognize that the leak repair 
provisions have a more attenuated connection to the purposes of section 
608(a) when applied to non-exempt substitute refrigerants than do the 
rest of the subpart F requirements, especially once application of all 
the other subpart F requirements to such refrigerants is taken into 
account. After further consideration, the EPA believes that extending 
the leak repair requirements to appliances containing non-exempt 
substitutes is not necessary to meet the purposes of section 608(a). 
Because the EPA is retaining the other subpart F requirements for non-
exempt substitute refrigerants, the rescission of the extension only of 
the leak repair requirements is unlikely to directly affect ODS 
emissions or the recapture and recycling of ODS. For example, since the 
EPA is retaining the requirement that only a certified technician can 
open an appliance containing non-exempt substitute refrigerant, it is 
unlikely that leaks in appliances with 50 or more pounds of ODS 
refrigerant would not be repaired because of a difference in the duty 
to repair between appliances containing ODS and those containing 
substitute refrigerants. The repair of leaks in ODS-containing 
appliances in this size range has been required since 1993, and owners 
and operators of such appliances as well as certified technicians are 
well aware of those requirements.
    The EPA also does not believe that applying the leak repair 
provisions to appliances that use only non-exempt substitute 
refrigerants would independently reduce cross-contamination, 
refrigerant mixing, or related releases from an ODS appliance. As 
discussed further in Section II.D of this document, the agency will 
continue to apply the other elements of the 608 program, such as the 
refrigerant sales restriction, technician certification, reclamation 
requirements, and evacuation standards, to non-exempt substitute 
refrigerants, and these elements address those concerns. Taken 
together, the other subpart F requirements also reduce the incidence of 
failure to follow the requirements for ODS appliances. By contrast, 
application specifically of the leak repair requirements to equipment 
containing only substitute refrigerants would not lead to additional 
reductions in ODS emissions. Nor would it lead to additional increases 
in the recapture and recycling of ODS because there is no ODS in these 
appliances to be recaptured or recycled.
    Thus, insofar as the 2016 Rule was grounded in an argument that 
section 608(a) supports the extension of the leak repair provisions to 
non-exempt substitute refrigerants, the EPA is withdrawing that 
interpretation. Accordingly, the EPA concludes that the connection 
between applying the leak repair requirements to appliances with only 
substitute refrigerants and serving the purposes in section 608(a)(3) 
is too tenuous to reasonably support reliance on CAA section 608(a) as 
a basis for authority to extend the leak repair requirements to non-
exempt substitutes.

D. The EPA Had Authority Under Section 608 To Extend Subpart F 
Provisions Other Than Leak Repair Provisions To Substitute Refrigerants

    The EPA requested comments on whether the agency should withdraw 
the entire extension of subpart F requirements to non-exempt substitute 
refrigerants in the 2016 Rule given its proposed interpretation. As 
described in more detail below, after considering the comments 
received, and analyzing the relevant provisions under the interpretive 
framework described in Section II.B above, the EPA concludes that, 
except for the leak repair provisions, the 2016 Rule's extension of the 
subpart F requirements to non-exempt substitute refrigerants was within 
the scope of its authority under section 608. Thus, aside from the 
rescission of the extension of the leak repair provisions discussed in 
Section II.C, the EPA is not withdrawing the extension of any of the 
non-leak repair provisions in subpart F to non-exempt substitute 
refrigerants.
i. Section 608(c)
    The EPA is retaining the extension of the non-leak repair 
provisions in subpart F for non-exempt substitute refrigerants as 
appropriate measures to interpret, explain, and enforce the venting 
prohibition and the de minimis exemption for non-exempt substitute 
refrigerants under 608(c). In contrast to the leak repair requirements, 
the other provisions of subpart F that the EPA extended to non-exempt 
substitute refrigerants in the 2016 Rule relate directly to releases 
that necessarily occur in the course of maintaining, servicing, 
repairing, or disposing of an appliance. Accordingly, those provisions 
directly address the potential for knowing releases of non-exempt 
substitute refrigerants that would be within the scope of section 
608(c)(2) or the application of the de minimis exemption to non-exempt 
substitute refrigerants under section 608(c)(2), and therefore are 
within the EPA's authority under section 608(c)(2).
    The EPA has long recognized connections between the non-leak repair 
requirements in subpart F and the potential for releases to occur 
during appliance maintenance, service, repair, or disposal, and 
continues to do so. For example, failure to properly evacuate an 
appliance (Sec.  82.156 and Sec.  82.158) before opening it for 
servicing will create the practical certainty that the refrigerant in 
the appliance will be released during the servicing event. The 
requirement that small appliances be equipped with a process stub 
(Sec.  82.154(e)(2)) facilitates the removal of refrigerant at 
servicing and disposal. The requirements (Sec. Sec.  82.156 and 82.158) 
that recovery and/or recycling equipment be used during the 
maintenance, servicing, repair or disposal of an appliance, and that 
such equipment be tested and

[[Page 14158]]

certified by an EPA-approved laboratory or organization, are intended 
``to ensure that recycling and recovery equipment on the market is 
capable of limiting emissions'' during such servicing and disposal 
activities. (58 FR 28682). The vapor recovery efficiency and the 
efficiency of noncondensable purge devices on recycling machines affect 
total recovery efficiency and thus how much refrigerant will be 
released to the environment once the appliance is opened for 
maintenance, servicing, repair or disposal. After a certified 
technician properly evacuates an appliance according to the 
requirements of Sec.  82.156, any remaining refrigerant that is then 
released during the maintenance, service, repair or disposal of the 
appliance can be considered a de minimis release associated with good 
faith attempts to recycle or recover refrigerants. Similarly, disposing 
of an appliance without removing the refrigerant as required under 
Sec.  82.155 will result in the release of any remaining refrigerant 
during disposal of the appliance. The EPA has long emphasized this 
point. When the EPA first issued the safe disposal requirements in 
1993, the EPA stated: ``The Agency wishes to clarify that the 
prohibition on venting refrigerant includes individuals who are 
preparing to dispose of a used appliance.'' (58 FR 28703). The 
recordkeeping provisions at Sec.  82.155(c)(2) are necessary to ensure 
that disposers of small appliances are adhering to the venting 
prohibition and the evacuation requirements. Similarly, the 
recordkeeping provisions at Sec.  82.156(a)(3) ensure that technicians 
are adhering to the venting prohibition and evacuation requirements 
when disposing of mid-sized appliances. These recordkeeping 
requirements help ensure accountability for compliance with the venting 
prohibition, as well as improving the enforceability of the 
prohibition. With respect to the sales restriction and technician 
certification requirements, consistent with its long-standing view, the 
EPA continues to believe that ``unrestricted sales will enable 
untrained or undertrained technicians to obtain access to refrigerants 
that are likely to be used improperly in connection with servicing 
activities that will result in the venting of refrigerants'' (58 FR 
28698) and that restricting servicing activities to technicians trained 
on the regulatory requirements and proper use of equipment reduces 
emissions and enhances compliance (see 58 FR 28692). Further, 
``[e]ducating technicians on how to contain and conserve refrigerant 
effectively, curtailing illegal venting into the atmosphere'' was one 
of the primary reasons many technicians commented in support of the 
certification program when it was initially promulgated. (58 FR 28691).
    Thus, the EPA continues to agree with the assessment in the 2016 
Rule that these refrigerant management provisions address releases that 
necessarily occur in the course of maintaining, servicing, repairing, 
or disposing of an appliance. Accordingly, the agency concludes that 
the 2016 Rule's extension of these subpart F requirements to non-exempt 
substitute refrigerants is within the scope of the EPA's authority 
under CAA section 608(c)(2), because these requirements interpret, 
explain, or help enforce that provision's venting prohibition and the 
application of the de minimis exemption.
    The EPA views the agency's authority to extend the reclamation 
requirements to non-exempt substitute refrigerants under section 608(c) 
as relating specifically to appliance servicing and disposal. By 
``reclamation requirements,'' the EPA means: The requirements under 
Sec.  82.164, including the requirements to reclaim used refrigerant 
before it is sold for use in an appliance; the requirement that 
reclaimed refrigerant be tested and meet AHRI Standard 700-2016, 
Specifications for Refrigerants (an industry developed consensus 
standard that the EPA has adopted into its regulations); and the 
requirement that reclaimers be certified by the EPA and agree to meet 
certain standards. The EPA interprets section 608(c), particularly the 
provisions relating to the servicing and disposal of appliances as 
described below, to provide authority that supports the extension of 
the reclamation requirements to non-exempt substitute refrigerants.
    Section 608(c)(1) states that ``it shall be unlawful for any person 
in the course of maintaining, servicing, repairing, or disposing of an 
appliance . . . to knowingly vent or otherwise knowingly release or 
dispose of any class I or class II substance used as a refrigerant . . 
. in a manner which permits such substance to enter the environment.'' 
Furthermore, the de minimis exemption encompasses ``releases associated 
with good faith attempts to recapture and recycle or safely dispose of 
any such substance . . .'' As described above, the EPA interprets 
section 608(c)(2) to extend the prohibitions in 608(c)(1), including 
the restriction on releases in the course of disposing and servicing of 
appliances and the de minimis exemption, to substitute substances.
    As part of the EPA's authority to interpret, explain, and enforce 
the venting prohibition under 608(c), the agency also has authority to 
address what constitutes disposal of an appliance. The agency defines 
``disposal'' in Subpart F to mean ``the process leading to and 
including'' several listed activities, such as ``the discharge, 
deposit, dumping or placing of any discarded appliance into or on any 
land or water;'' the ``disassembly of any appliance for discharge, 
deposit, dumping or placing of its discarded component parts into or on 
any land or water'' or for reuse of its component parts; the 
``vandalism of any appliance such that the refrigerant is released into 
the environment or would be released into the environment if it had not 
been recovered prior to the destructive activity;'' and the ``recycling 
of any appliance for scrap.'' (Sec.  82.152).
    The reclamation requirements explain how to ``recapture and 
recycle'' refrigerants that are recovered in the course of servicing or 
disposing of an appliance in lieu of releasing them into the 
environment. Reclamation, a process whereby used refrigerant is 
purified to meet required specifications and then permitted to be sold 
for reuse, is a means of ``recaptur[ing] and recycl[ing]'' refrigerant. 
The reclamation requirements have the added benefit of supporting a 
market in which technicians can sell recovered refrigerant to 
reclaimers for compensation; this provides a financial benefit to 
technicians who recover refrigerant during appliance disposal rather 
than venting it.\15\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \15\ Much of the refrigerant recovered and sent for reclamation 
occurs during the disposal of an appliance. However, some 
refrigerant that is sent for reclamation is also recovered during 
the servicing of an appliance, including the retrofitting of an 
appliance for use with a different refrigerant.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The interpretation that the reclamation requirements directly 
relate to interpreting, explaining, and enforcing the prohibition on 
venting during appliance servicing and disposal is further supported by 
the fact that Congress included ``releases associated with good faith 
attempts to . . . recycle or safely dispose of any such substance'' in 
the de minimis exemption to the venting prohibition. This indicates 
that Congress clearly contemplated that certain refrigerant-related 
actions could be implicated by the appliance-related actions covered by 
the venting prohibition.
    The EPA further interprets the phrase ``recycle or safely dispose 
of any such substance,'' when referring to either ODS or non-exempt 
substitute refrigerants, to include reclamation. Accordingly, the EPA 
believes the extension of the reclamation

[[Page 14159]]

requirements to non-exempt substitutes refrigerants is supported by 
608(c) because these requirements interpret, explain, and enforce 
section 608(c)'s prohibition on releases of non-exempt substitute 
refrigerants during the servicing and disposal of appliances and the de 
minimis exemption for recycling or safely disposing of such 
refrigerants.
ii. Section 608(a)
    The EPA also concludes that section 608(a) provides the EPA 
authority for the 2016 Rule's extension of the non-leak repair subpart 
F requirements to the extent that there is demonstrably a connection 
between those requirements and the purposes of 608(a), as articulated 
in sections 608(a)(3)(A) and (B). As the EPA concluded in the preamble 
to the 2016 Rule:

    This action extending the regulations under subpart F to non-
exempt substitutes is additionally supported by the authority in 
section 608(a) because regulations that minimize the release and 
maximize the recapture and recovery of non-exempt substitutes will 
also reduce the release and increase the recovery of ozone-depleting 
substances. Improper handling of substitute refrigerants is likely 
to contaminate appliances and recovery cylinders with mixtures of 
ODS and non-ODS substitutes, which can lead to illegal venting 
because such mixtures are difficult or expensive to reclaim or 
appropriately dispose of. . . . In short, the authority to 
promulgate regulations regarding the use of class I and II 
substances encompasses the authority to establish regulations 
regarding the proper handling of substitutes where this is needed to 
reduce emissions and maximize recapture and recycling of class I and 
II substances. Applying consistent requirements to all non-exempt 
refrigerants will reduce complexity and increase clarity for the 
regulated community and promote compliance with those requirements 
for ODS refrigerants, as well as their substitutes. [81 FR 82286.]

    The 2016 Rule discussed how failure to apply consistent standards 
to appliances containing non-exempt substitute refrigerants and those 
containing ODS refrigerants could lead to emissions of ODS (81 FR 
82288). After additional consideration, the EPA affirms the potential 
for such inconsistent requirements to increase ODS emissions. For 
example, applying the sales restriction and technician certification 
requirements for persons servicing appliances using non-exempt 
substitute refrigerants reduces the possibility that refrigerant in the 
appliances may be misidentified or mishandled by an uncertified person 
attempting to service the appliance. Improper handling of non-exempt 
substitute refrigerants by persons lacking the requisite training may 
contaminate appliances and recovery cylinders with mixtures of ODS and 
non-ODS substitutes. Contaminated appliances may lead to equipment 
failures and emissions from those systems, including emissions of ODS. 
Contaminated refrigerant is more costly to reclaim for re-use and the 
only other option besides reclamation (or recycling for use by the same 
owner) to avoid its entry to the environment is that it be destroyed. 
However, the costs of reclaiming or destroying these mixed refrigerants 
incentivizes intentional releases, including of ODS, to the atmosphere 
from contaminated appliances and recovery cylinders. Applying the same 
requirements for servicing and disposing of appliances containing ODS 
and non-exempt substitute refrigerant ensures standard procedures are 
followed, which reduces the possibility for errors and the risk of ODS 
emissions associated with misidentification or mishandling of the 
refrigerant.
    The EPA also concludes that section 608(a) provides the EPA 
authority for the 2016 Rule's extension of the reclamation requirements 
to non-exempt substitute refrigerants. The EPA established the 
reclamation requirement for used ODS refrigerant in 1993 to prevent 
equipment damage, and the resultant emissions caused by use of 
contaminated refrigerant in appliances, and to provide confidence in 
the market for used refrigerants (58 FR 28678). Because of the venting 
prohibition, combined with the phaseout of ODS, the EPA in 1993 
anticipated a large increase in recovered refrigerant and was concerned 
about the risks to appliances posed by use of contaminated refrigerant. 
As the EPA stated in the 1993 Rule, damaged equipment would often leak 
during operation and would require servicing or replacement more often 
than undamaged equipment, increasing refrigerant emissions. Damage to 
equipment would also reduce consumer confidence in the quality of used 
refrigerant, leading to erosion of the market for used refrigerants and 
possibly to their release. As described further below, the 2016 Rule's 
extension of the reclamation requirements to non-exempt substitute 
refrigerants addresses these concerns and therefore furthers the goals 
of section 608(a)(3) to reduce the emissions of ODS and maximize the 
recapture and recycling of ODS.
    An important aspect of the reclamation requirements is the 
requirement that used refrigerant be reclaimed to certain purity 
standards prior to sale for re-use. By requiring that used refrigerant 
be reclaimed prior to sale, the reclamation requirements also prohibit 
the immediate reuse of recovered refrigerant, with the exception of use 
in equipment owned by the same entity owning the equipment from which 
the refrigerant was removed. In 1993, the EPA expressed concern that 
recovered refrigerant may contain moisture, acids, oil, particulates, 
or other contaminants that can lead to serious damage to the equipment 
if it is reused without taking some action to remove these 
contaminants. Recovered non-exempt substitute refrigerants today 
contain those same contaminants as in 1993 with one significant 
difference: The increase in the use of substitute refrigerants, 
including multi-component blends, has resulted in more types of 
refrigerant encountered by technicians. Often ODS and non-ODS 
refrigerants are improperly recovered into the same recovery cylinder, 
leading to mixed refrigerant which contains both ODS and non-ODS. This 
is supported by data reported annually by EPA-certified reclaimers 
under Sec.  82.164(d)(3) which show that the amount of mixed 
refrigerant they receive is increasing.\16\ The lack of consistent 
reclamation requirements for non-exempt substitutes could result in 
confusion about what to do if there is uncertainty about the contents 
of a cylinder or about the proper treatment of mixtures. Equipment can 
be damaged, resulting in refrigerant emissions, including ODS 
emissions, if such mixed refrigerant is not sent for reclamation but 
rather sold and recharged into appliances designed for non-exempt 
substitute refrigerants. Reclamation requirements to remove impurities 
and separate mixed refrigerants reduce the likelihood of equipment 
failure and subsequent emissions of ODS. These requirements also 
promote the recycling of ODS because once it is separated from the 
mixed refrigerant the ODS can subsequently be reclaimed for reuse.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \16\ These data can be found at: https://www.epa.gov/section608/summary-refrigerant-reclamation-trends.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In addition, the combined effect of the reclamation provisions 
relating to EPA's certification of reclaimers, the purity standards 
that reclaimed refrigerant must meet, and the testing of that 
refrigerant to ensure it meets those standards together provide 
confidence in the market for used refrigerants. Reclamation is 
performed by private businesses and is subject to market forces. 
Currently these market forces provide a financial incentive to 
technicians to recover refrigerant and send it to a reclaimer in as 
pure a state as possible to maximize the

[[Page 14160]]

compensation they receive. Absent that financial incentive, technicians 
may be more likely to vent the refrigerant than to send it for 
reclamation, which could lead to ODS emissions when the refrigerant 
vented is an ODS or a mixture containing ODS. These market forces also 
sustain an industry whose function is to reprocess used refrigerant. 
Reclamation is critical to achieving the goal of maximizing the 
recapture and recycling of ODS, as set forth in section 608(a)(3)(B). 
Absent reclamation, banks of ODS refrigerant found in existing 
equipment, in stockpiles, or mixed with other used refrigerant will 
instead likely be released, given the costs of destruction. In sum, the 
EPA concludes that the extension of the reclamation requirements to 
non-exempt substitutes is supported by section 608(a)(3) because 
extending these requirements to non-exempt substitutes serves the 
purposes set forth in 608(a)(3) of maximizing the recapture and 
recycling of ODS and reducing ODS emissions to the lowest achievable 
level.
    In conclusion, because the application of the non-leak repair 
requirements to non-exempt substitute refrigerants is connected to the 
purposes of section 608(a)(3) via the corresponding reductions in ODS 
emissions and increases in ODS recapture and recycling that are 
expected to result from maintaining the reclamation requirements for 
non-exempt substitute refrigerants and retaining consistent practices 
for ODS and non-exempt substitute refrigerants. Therefore, the EPA 
concludes that the extension of these requirements is within the scope 
of its authority under CAA 608(a).

III. Summary and Response to Major Comments

    This section summarizes many comments received on this rule, 
particularly those related to the EPA's legal authority to regulate 
substitute refrigerants under section 608, and the EPA's responses. 
Other comments received for this action are addressed in Sections IV 
and V below, as well as in the response to comments document found in 
the docket for this action.

A. Comments on the Scope of the Agency's Authority To Regulate 
Substitutes Under Section 608(c)

    The EPA received multiple comments in support of the agency's 
authority to interpret and explain section 608(c) through the issuance 
of regulations. These commenters point to the text, purpose, context, 
and legislative history of section 608(c) to argue that the EPA has 
broad authority to regulate substitute refrigerants to prevent illegal 
venting. Most of these commenters support the EPA's view of its 
authority as articulated in the 2016 Rule, both for the leak repair 
provisions and the non-leak repair provisions in subpart F. Other 
commenters, however, state that the EPA's authority under 608(c) does 
not allow for the leak repair provisions established in the 2016 Rule. 
One of those commenters states that the EPA has authority to establish 
the non-leak repair requirements for substitutes, but not the leak 
repair provisions. Another one of those commenters states that the 
EPA's authority under 608(c) does not extend so far as to authorize 
regulations for substitutes that are co-extensive with the regulations 
required under 608(a) requirements for ODS. That commenter states that 
the lack of an explicit grant of authority from Congress for the EPA to 
establish a regulatory program for substitutes indicates that no such 
authority exists, arguing that Congressional silence is not a 
delegation of authority to regulate. Another commenter states that the 
EPA lacks authority to regulate substitutes in any manner under section 
608(c). The commenter states that 608(c) is a self-effectuating 
enforceable requirement to use good management practices and does not 
provide the EPA with the authority to implement a regulatory program.
    The agency agrees that the EPA's authority to issue regulations 
interpreting, explaining, and enforcing section 608(c) is not co-
extensive with its authority to regulate under section 608(a). Thus, 
the agency disagrees with the comments that supported the view of the 
EPA's authority as articulated in the 2016 Rule. As explained in 
Section II above, the agency now interprets sections 608(a) and (c) 
together to determine that while these provisions are reasonably read 
to provide it some authority to regulate substitute refrigerants, its 
authority is more limited for substitute refrigerants than for ODS. In 
so doing, the EPA recognizes and gives weight to the fact that sections 
608(a) and 608(c) differ from one another in some key respects, 
including the fact that 608(a)(1) and (2) expressly require the EPA to 
issue regulations for class I and class II substances, but include no 
such requirement for--or indeed any mention of--substitutes. In 
contrast, 608(c) does explicitly apply to substitute refrigerants, but 
that subsection leaves the EPA discretion as to whether to promulgate 
regulations implementing its provisions and is focused on preventing 
knowing releases of refrigerants in the course of maintaining, 
servicing, repairing, or disposing of appliances and on providing an 
exemption for de minimis releases without specifying the mechanisms for 
carrying out this prohibition and exemption. In light of these 
differences in wording between 608(a) and 608(c), the EPA concludes in 
this action that the 2016 Rule's extension of the full set of subpart F 
requirements to non-exempt substitute refrigerants exceeded its 
statutory authority under section 608 because the extension of the full 
set of requirements (i.e., as an entirety) was inconsistent with the 
more limited scope of the EPA's authority under section 608 to regulate 
substitute refrigerants as compared with its authority to regulate ODS 
refrigerants. In addition, as explained in Section II of this document, 
the EPA has concluded that the 2016 Rule's extension of the leak repair 
requirements to non-exempt substitute refrigerants exceeded its 
authority under both sections 608(c) and 608(a). Therefore, the agency 
disagrees with the comments concluding that the EPA did have authority 
to extend the leak repair requirements to non-exempt substitute 
refrigerants, and agrees with the comments that the extension of these 
requirements exceed the agency's authority under 608(c).
    To the extent that the comments are intended to suggest that any 
overlap between regulations under sections 608(a) and 608(c) exceeds 
the EPA's statutory authority, the agency disagrees. The fact that 
Congress required the EPA to address ODS refrigerants in a specific way 
under section 608(a), and then included a separate provision under 
608(c) to address knowing venting, release, and disposal of ODS and 
substitute refrigerants during certain activities, does not demonstrate 
that Congress intended to preclude the EPA from implementing section 
608(a) and the venting prohibition in section 608(c) by using similar 
requirements for ODS and substitute refrigerants, when such an approach 
is independently consistent with those statutory provisions. Taking 
such an approach does not mean that the agency is using section 608(a) 
to implement section 608(c), or vice versa, but instead simply 
indicates that these regulatory approaches can be justified under both 
section 608(a) and 608(c).\17\

[[Page 14161]]

For example, as explained in Section II above, the EPA concludes it was 
within its statutory authority under both sections 608(a) and 608(c) to 
extend the non-leak repair provisions in subpart F to substitute 
refrigerants.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \17\ As explained in the 2016 Rule, the EPA continues to believe 
that using section 608(c) to establish similar requirements to those 
authorized under section 608(a) does not render section 608(a) a 
nullity: ``Unlike section 608(c), section 608(a) is not limited to 
refrigerants. EPA has applied its authority under section 608(a) to 
establish or consider regulations for ODS in non-refrigerant 
applications. As an example, in 1998, EPA issued a rule on halon 
management under the authority of section 608(a)(2) (63 FR 11084, 
March 5, 1998). In that action, EPA noted that section 608(a)(2) 
`directs EPA to establish standards and requirements regarding the 
use and disposal of class I and II substances other than 
refrigerants.' 63 FR 11085. Similarly, EPA considered whether to 
establish a requirement to use gas impermeable tarps to reduce 
emissions of methyl bromide under section 608(a)(2), ultimately 
determining not to do so for technological and economic reasons. 63 
FR 6008 (February 5, 1998).'' (82 FR 82290).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    With regard to the comments that the EPA does not have regulatory 
authority under section 608(c) either because that provision is self-
effectuating or because it does not contain explicit authorization to 
issue regulations, the EPA disagrees. The agency has long held and 
continues to maintain that 608(c), though self-effectuating, provides 
authority to issue implementing regulations that interpret, explain, 
and enforce the venting prohibition and the de minimis exemption in 
section 608(c) and that include the venting prohibition in the overall 
context of the regulatory scheme. (See, e.g., 69 FR 11947). Thus, while 
section 608(c) does not include a requirement to issue regulations as 
section 608(a) does, the agency does not view the lack of a requirement 
as equivalent to a prohibition on issuing regulations under section 
608(c). This is not a situation where Congress was silent as to whether 
the statutory provision applies to substitutes. Rather, Congress 
specifically included substitutes in the venting prohibition. It also 
provided the agency additional discretion to exempt substitutes from 
the venting prohibition when it determined that the venting, release, 
or disposal of the substitute did not pose a threat to the environment. 
The EPA construes the inclusion of substitutes in section 608(c)(2) in 
these ways to indicate that Congress contemplated that regulation of 
substitutes would occur. Furthermore, while the EPA is not relying on 
CAA section 301(a) for primary or substantive authority in this action, 
the agency believes that the text of CAA section 301(a), which provides 
that the EPA may ``prescribe such regulations as are necessary to carry 
out [the EPA Administrator's] functions'' under the Act, supplements 
its authority under section 608(c) to issue regulations that interpret, 
explain, or enforce the venting prohibition and the de minimis 
exemption. In addition, as some commenters point out, the legislative 
history indicates that in establishing the venting prohibition, 
Congress expected the EPA to promulgate regulatory ``provisions to 
foster implementation of this prohibition, including guidance on what 
constitutes `de minimis' and `good faith'.'' Report of the Committee on 
Environment and Public Works United States Senate, Report Accompanying 
S. 1630 (S. Rept. 101-228) (December 20, 1989) at 396 (reprinted in 5 A 
Legislative History of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, at 8736 
(1993)).
    Furthermore, as explained in Section II of this document, the 
agency continues to view section 608 as ambiguous in important 
respects. In section 608(c) Congress provided an exemption to the 
venting prohibition for certain de minimis releases, but it did not 
define what releases would be considered ``de minimis'' nor which 
activities would be considered ``good faith attempts to recapture and 
recycle or safely dispose'' of such substances. Where Congress has not 
directly spoken to an issue or has left ambiguity in the statute, that 
silence or ambiguity creates an assumption that ``Congress implicitly 
delegated to the agency the power to make policy choices that represent 
a reasonable accommodation of conflicting policies that are committed 
to the agency's care by the statute.'' National Ass'n of Mfrs. v. 
United States DOI, 134 F.3d 1095, 1106 (D.C. Cir. 1998). As the U.S. 
Supreme Court has explained, the ``power of an administrative agency to 
administer a congressionally created . . . program necessarily requires 
the formulation of policy and the making of rules to fill any gap left, 
implicitly or explicitly, by Congress.'' Chevron, 467 U.S. at 843-44. 
Accordingly, Congress's silence with regard to carrying out the venting 
prohibition and the exception for certain releases leaves a gap for the 
Agency to fill.
    Consistent with this view, the EPA's regulations at Sec.  82.154 
have included the venting prohibition since they were originally 
promulgated in 1993. (58 FR 28714). Even before the 2016 Rule, the 
subpart F regulations provided that ``[n]o person maintaining, 
servicing, repairing, or disposing of appliances may knowingly vent or 
otherwise release into the environment any refrigerant or substitute 
from such appliances'' and then provided for exceptions from this 
prohibition for specified substitutes in specified end-uses. (Sec.  
82.154 (2014)). These exceptions implemented the discretion Congress 
left the EPA under 608(c)(2) to exempt certain releases from the 
venting prohibition, if the Administrator has determined that 
``venting, releasing, or disposing of such substance does not pose a 
threat to the environment.'' CAA section 608(c)(2). Similarly, the 
regulations at Sec.  82.154 in place before the 2016 Rule included 
provisions clarifying that ``[ODS] releases shall be considered de 
minimis only if they occur when'' certain regulatory requirements are 
observed. (Sec.  82.154(a)(2) (2014)). However, those regulations did 
not provide the same clarity regarding releases of non-exempt 
substitute refrigerants or what practices would be considered to fall 
within the ambit of ``good faith attempts to recycle or recover'' non-
exempt substitute refrigerants. (Sec.  82.154(a)(2)). The EPA has long 
interpreted section 608(c)(2) to incorporate and extend both the 
venting prohibition and the de minimis exemption in section 608(c)(1) 
to substitute refrigerants, but Congress did not specify what practices 
or actions should be taken to qualify for this exemption in either 
provision. Thus, it is reasonable to interpret these provisions as 
indicating that Congress contemplated that the EPA would have authority 
to resolve this ambiguity by issuing regulations to implement section 
608(c). For these reasons, and as explained in prior sections of this 
document, the EPA continues to believe that section 608(c) is 
reasonably interpreted to provide it some authority to issue 
regulations applicable to substitute refrigerants and thus disagrees 
with these comments.

B. Comments on Whether ``Topping Off'' a Leaking Appliance Constitutes 
a Knowing Release Subject to the Venting Prohibition

    The EPA received multiple comments stating that the operation of an 
appliance, and the ``topping off'' with additional refrigerant, is not 
knowing venting prohibited under section 608(c). They state that 
venting must occur during the service, maintenance, repair, or disposal 
of an appliance to be prohibited. Other comments disagree with the 
EPA's proposed decision to return to its pre-2016 interpretation of 
``topping off.'' A couple of commenters state that the fact that 
refrigerant must be added demonstrates that there is a leak, which 
would continue if not repaired, and that a technician that repeatedly 
tops off refrigerant from leaking equipment knows the refrigerant is 
being released. These commenters object to the proposal to return to 
the prior interpretation of ``topping off'' because under that 
interpretation, no matter how significant the quantity of lost 
refrigerant from a leaking appliance, it would not violate the venting 
prohibition unless there was a practical

[[Page 14162]]

certainty refrigerant was being released during the servicing event. 
These commenters thought such a result conflicted with section 608's 
purpose of reducing emissions of ODS and their substitutes. These 
commenters also generally found the EPA's 2016 change in its historical 
interpretation to be reasonable and supported retaining that 
interpretation. Other commenters look to the word ``maintenance'' in 
section 608 as providing authority for the leak repair provisions. One 
commenter states that ``maintenance'' includes normal operation, noting 
the definition of maintenance includes ``keep[ing] in an existing 
state'' or ``preserv[ing]'' the machinery.\18\ Another comment states 
that because proper maintenance includes fixing leaks, failure to 
adequately repair leaks violates the venting prohibition.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \18\ Maintain, MERRIAM-WEBSTER ONLINE DICTIONARY, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/maintain (last visited Nov. 15, 
2018).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The EPA disagrees with commenters that state that the ``topping 
off'' of a leaking appliance is necessarily prohibited under section 
608(c). The addition of refrigerant to an appliance during service, 
maintenance, or repair is typically distinct and separate in time from 
the release of that refrigerant into the environment from a leak during 
the normal operation of the appliance. As discussed elsewhere in this 
document, while there may be a release of refrigerant from a leaking 
appliance, all appliances leak and such leaks typically occur during 
normal operations. While there may be cases where there would be an 
ongoing release of refrigerant such that the refrigerant added to the 
system is contemporaneously released and the technician knows about 
such a release during the servicing event (e.g., when refrigerant is 
added to equipment that is audibly or visibly leaking during the 
servicing event), the EPA does not have any information to suggest that 
this is the norm. Accordingly, the EPA does not have any information to 
suggest that these situations are common enough to sustain an extension 
of the leak repair requirements to equipment using solely substitute 
refrigerants under the text of section 608(c).
    The EPA also disagrees with the commenters suggesting that 
inclusion of the term ``maintaining'' in section 608(c) provides the 
agency authority to apply the leak repair provisions to appliances 
containing only substitute refrigerants. Contrary to the position that 
the EPA took in the 2016 Rule (81 FR 82291), the EPA concludes in this 
action that the term ``maintaining'' in section 608(c) is not meant to 
encompass the normal operation of an appliance. Rather, as discussed in 
Section II above, the EPA believes it is reasonable to interpret this 
term in light of the other terms in section 608(c) (servicing, 
repairing, or disposing), all of which refer to activities that are 
distinct from the normal, day-to-day operation of the equipment. The 
EPA also disagrees with the commenters suggesting that failure to 
repair leaks is a failure to maintain equipment that necessarily 
results in releases that violate the venting prohibition. The text of 
section 608(c)(1) prohibits knowing releases of ODS by ``any person, in 
the course of maintaining, servicing, repairing, or disposing'' of 
appliances, and section 608(c)(2) extends that prohibition to knowing 
releases of substitute refrigerants ``by any person maintaining, 
servicing, repairing, or disposing of'' an appliance. Thus, section 
608(c) requires an actor (e.g., a technician) to conduct one of a 
particular set of actions on an object (an appliance) in order for the 
venting prohibition to apply. The four terms ``maintaining, servicing, 
repairing, or disposing'' included in section 608(c) are all forms of 
transitive verbs that express an action by an actor (``any person'') on 
an object (an appliance containing or using refrigerant). Interpreting 
the term ``maintaining'' as encompassing the lack of maintenance or 
failure to repair leaks unreasonably transforms the prohibition against 
knowing releases during certain defined activities into a requirement 
to undertake those activities. In the EPA's view, it is not reasonable 
to interpret the term ``maintaining'' to encompass normal, day-to-day 
operations of an appliance or to encompass failure to maintain an 
appliance. Rather, the EPA concludes that the term ``maintaining'' as 
used in section 608(c) should be interpreted to refer to work done on 
an appliance in furtherance of its continued functioning or to preserve 
its existing state of repair. (See, e.g., The American Heritage College 
Dictionary, 4th ed. (Houghton Mifflin, 2002), at 834 (listing 
definitions of ``maintain'' which include ``to keep in an existing 
state; preserve or retain'' and to ``keep in a condition of good repair 
or efficiency''); Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed. 
(Merriam Webster Inc., 2003), at 749 (definitions of ``maintain'' 
include ``to keep in an existing state (as of repair, efficiency, or 
validity): preserve from failure or decline <~machinery>'')).
    The EPA disagrees with the comments that its historic 
interpretation, to which it returns today, is inconsistent with the 
purpose of section 608(c). As explained in Section II above, a general 
analysis of whether a provision leads to reductions in ODS emissions 
would typically be undertaken under section 608(a). In contrast to 
section 608(a), which requires regulations to reduce emissions of ODS 
to the lowest achievable level, the agency interprets section 608(c) as 
focusing on limiting particular types of emissions of ODS and 
substitute refrigerants--those from knowing releases, venting, and 
disposal that occur in the course of maintaining, servicing, repairing, 
or disposing of appliances. The agency views its return to its historic 
interpretation in this action as consistent with the purposes of 
section 608(c) because it better focuses the regulations on knowing 
releases that occur during the activities listed in 608(c). In this 
interpretation it is not the quantity of refrigerant released, but 
rather the circumstances of the release that determine whether the 
venting prohibition applies. The EPA concludes that its legal authority 
under section 608(c)(2) does not extend to emissions of substitute 
refrigerants that do not occur during one of those four activities. 
Thus, the agency agrees with the comments stating that the release must 
occur during the service, maintenance, repair, or disposal of an 
appliance to be prohibited under the venting prohibition.
    A couple of commenters request that the EPA clarify how rescinding 
the 2016 Rule's interpretation--that ``topping off'' a leaking 
appliance could in some circumstances constitute a knowing release and 
violate the venting prohibition--affects appliances containing ODS 
refrigerant. Noting that the proposed rule states that the Agency was 
not modifying any ODS provisions, the commenters state that the EPA 
should rescind this interpretation as it applies to ODS appliances as 
well. The EPA responds that the agency is rescinding this 
interpretation for all appliances, regardless of the type of 
refrigerant used. The original interpretation that topping off an 
appliance was not a knowing release was in the context of appliances 
containing ODS refrigerant. (58 FR 28672). Thus, reverting back to that 
original interpretation means it applies to appliances using ODS 
refrigerant, as well as to those using non-ODS refrigerants. We further 
note that this return to the original interpretation does not change 
the required leak repair practices in Sec.  82.157 for ODS equipment, 
as those requirements reduce the emissions of ODS and maximize the 
recapture and recycling of ODS as provided in section 608(a). In

[[Page 14163]]

addition, the agency is not changing the requirement under Sec.  
82.154(a)(2)(i) that ODS releases only qualify for the de minimis 
exemption if certain regulatory practices, including those in Sec.  
82.157, have been observed.

C. Comments on Whether Section 608(a) Provides Any Statutory Authority 
To Regulate Substitute Refrigerants

    The EPA requested comment on whether, as a matter of statutory 
interpretation, the agency can rely on section 608(a) for the issuance 
of any of the subpart F requirements (leak repair or otherwise) for 
substitute refrigerants, including those provisions for which there is 
demonstrably a connection between the regulatory requirement and the 
purposes of section 608(a) to reduce use and emission of class I and II 
substances to the lowest achievable level and maximize the recapture 
and recycling of such substances. As the EPA discussed in the proposal, 
Congress specifically required the EPA in section 608(a) to issue 
regulations for class I and class II substances that would meet certain 
statutory purposes set forth in that section. But Congress did not list 
substitutes for coverage by those requirements. In contrast, section 
608(c) does expressly apply to substitute refrigerants. This difference 
between section 608(a) and 608(c) could be interpreted as a 
manifestation of Congressional intent to distinguish between the 
categories of substances covered in these respective provisions and to 
only convey authority to address substitute refrigerants under 608(c), 
not 608(a), which is an issue on which the EPA solicited comment.
    Three commenters state that 608(a) is not ambiguous with respect to 
the extent to which Congress authorized the EPA to issue refrigerant 
management regulations for substitutes. The commenters state that 
Congress did not provide any explicit grant of authority in section 
608(a) for the EPA to establish a regulatory program for substitutes. 
The fact that Congress so clearly provided such authority for ODS 
demonstrates that no such authority exists for substitutes. One of 
those commenters concludes that the EPA lacks the discretion it claims 
to regulate non-exempt substitutes in any manner.
    Other commenters state that the scope of 608(a) is ambiguous and 
that to the extent that the EPA determines that the statutory language 
is ambiguous, then the EPA is free to make a policy decision to resolve 
the ambiguity. These commenters state that there are many policy 
rationales that support regulating non-ODS substitutes to an equal 
extent as the regulation of ODS, including cost savings to owners and 
operators by encouraging proper leak management, reducing harm to the 
atmosphere, and reduced public safety hazards.
    The EPA responds that, as discussed in Section II.B. above, while 
section 608(a)(3) states that regulations under 608(a) shall include 
requirements that serve particular objectives and discretionary 
language about what requirements those regulations may include, it does 
not contain any more specific mandates about how the required 
objectives should be achieved. Thus, the EPA agrees with the comments 
that section 608(a) is ambiguous with respect to the EPA's authority to 
regulate substitute refrigerants to achieve those purposes. Given this 
ambiguity, the EPA interprets section 608(a) to provide authority to 
issue regulations that reduce the use and emission of ODS to the lowest 
achievable level or that maximize the recapture and recycling of such 
substances, even if the regulations do not directly regulate ODS. Thus, 
as in the 2016 Rule, to the extent that the extension of certain 
subpart F requirements to non-exempt substitutes is necessary to 
achieve the purposes set forth in section 608(a)(3) (i.e., reducing the 
use and emission of ODS to the lowest achievable level or maximizing 
the recapture and recycling of such substances), the EPA concludes that 
the extension is within the ambit of its authority under section 
608(a). However, the EPA disagrees with the comments suggesting that 
608(a) is so ambiguous as to allow the agency to employ various policy 
rationales such as cost savings to the owners and operators, 
encouraging proper leak management, reducing harm to the atmosphere, 
and reducing public safety hazards when considering whether the 
extension of the subpart F requirements to substitute refrigerants is 
supported by 608(a). The EPA interprets section 608(a) to authorize the 
extension of those requirements only if they meet the explicit 
purpose(s) of that section, including reducing the use and emission of 
ODS to the lowest achievable level and/or maximizing the recapture and 
recycling of such substances. For the reasons discussed in Section II 
of this document, the EPA concludes that section 608(a) does not 
support the 2016 extension of the leak repair requirements in Sec.  
82.157 to non-exempt substitute refrigerants but does support the 
extension of the non-leak repair requirements to such refrigerants.
    Some commenters state that 608(a) does not provide authority to 
require repairing leaks of non-ODS substitutes because repairing an 
appliance containing a substitute will not reduce the use or emission 
of ODS nor maximize the recapture and recycling of ODS.
    The EPA responds that, as described in greater detail in Section II 
above, the agency interprets CAA section 608(a) to support the 2016 
Rule's extension of the existing subpart F requirements to appliances 
using only non-exempt substitute refrigerants only if that extension is 
necessary to serve the purposes of 608(a). The EPA agrees with these 
commenters that applying the leak repair provisions to appliances 
containing only substitute refrigerants is not necessary to reduce ODS 
emissions or to promote the recapture and recycling of ODS. This is 
especially true since the EPA is retaining the non-leak repair 
provisions in subpart F for non-exempt substitutes.
    Three commenters state that the text of 608(a) demonstrates that 
Congress intended the section to provide an incentive to transition to 
non-ODS substitutes. These commenters state that rescinding the leak 
repair provisions for non-exempt substitutes will restore that 
incentive, which will minimize use and emission of ODS. Likewise, one 
commenter states that applying the refrigerant management requirements 
to substitutes will disincentivize the development of new substitutes.
    While the EPA is rescinding the leak repair provisions for non-
exempt substitutes based on its determination that the extension of 
these provisions to such substitutes exceeded its statutory authority 
because it was based on an unreasonable interpretation of that 
authority, the EPA disagrees that section 608 drives the development of 
or transition to substitutes. Section 608 is one of several 
complementary measures in Title VI of the CAA that support the phaseout 
of class I and class II ODS. For example, in section 610 Congress 
banned certain products containing ODS and granted the EPA authority 
under to ban others. In section 611, Congress required the EPA to 
promulgate labeling requirements for certain products containing or 
manufactured with ODS. These aspects of Title VI more directly 
establish incentives and support the transition to ODS alternatives 
than the provisions in section 608, which establish a national 
recycling and emission reduction program. Further, the production and 
import of class I ODS has been phased out and the production and import 
of class II ODS is well underway. Allowances for production and import 
of the most common HCFC refrigerant, HCFC-22, are set to decline to 
zero in 2020 (Sec. Sec.  82.16, 82.15(e)). In addition,

[[Page 14164]]

use restrictions issued pursuant to section 605(a) prohibit use of 
newly produced HCFC-22 in equipment manufactured on or after January 1, 
2010 (Sec.  82.15(g)(2)). The section 605(a) use restrictions further 
prohibit use of newly produced HCFC-123 in equipment manufactured on or 
after January 1, 2020 (Sec.  82.15(g)(4)). While used HCFCs are not 
subject to these restrictions, the HCFC production and import phaseout 
and the restrictions on use of newly produced HCFCs provide clear 
market signals regarding future availability of HCFC refrigerants.
    Thus, the provisions of Title VI, taken together, provide a variety 
of incentives for the transition from ODS to substitutes. In section 
608(c)(2), however, Congress indicated a concern about the potential 
environmental impacts of substitute refrigerants by extending the 
venting prohibition to substitute refrigerants, unless the EPA 
determines that for particular substances such releases do not pose a 
threat to the environment.
    To the extent that the extension of subpart F regulatory 
requirements to non-exempt substitute refrigerants is supported by 
section 608(c), that extension provides clarity and certainty to 
owners, operators, and people servicing, maintaining, repairing, or 
disposing of air conditioning and refrigeration equipment of how they 
can avoid violating the venting prohibition. Such clarity and certainty 
with regards to the venting prohibition are consistent with the EPA's 
overall efforts under Title VI to facilitate a smooth transition from 
ODS to substitute refrigerants. Thus, while facilitating a smooth 
transition to substitutes is not a basis for this action, the EPA 
disagrees with the comments suggesting that applying subpart F 
provisions to non-exempt substitute refrigerants reduces incentives for 
the development of or transition to substitutes.
    The EPA solicited comment regarding scenarios where failure to 
apply consistent standards for the non-leak repair provisions in 
Subpart F could lead to emissions of ODS. These scenarios include 
contamination caused by the improper handling of non-exempt substitute 
refrigerant, equipment failure due to mixed or contaminated 
refrigerant, venting of contaminated refrigerant due to cost of 
handling and reclaiming refrigerant in appliances, and venting due to 
an individual misidentifying an ODS refrigerant as a substitute 
refrigerant when performing maintenance on an appliance. (83 FR 49340).
    One commenter states that the EPA provided no technical basis to 
warrant the extension of the non-leak repair subpart F requirements to 
substitutes. Specifically, the commenter states that the agency did not 
provide any data concerning frequency of refrigerant contamination, 
equipment failures due to contamination, and misidentification. The 
commenter states that its members, including one that has 75 separate 
facilities, could not identify any examples of substitute contamination 
or mismanagement. Multiple other commenters state that a single, 
uniform, and consistent management system for ODS and substitute 
refrigerants makes refrigerant management easier for technicians 
maintaining, servicing, or disposing of refrigeration equipment, and 
increases the chances that technicians will not release class I or 
class II refrigerant. Some of these comments were limited to the non-
leak repair provisions of Subpart F and some were inclusive of the leak 
repair provisions. Several refrigerant technicians and reclaimers in 
their comments relay instances where a layperson has mixed refrigerant 
or attempted an improper retrofit or other maintenance and caused the 
release of refrigerant. Other commenters state that refrigerant mixing 
would increase if the sales restriction for non-exempt substitutes were 
rescinded.
    The EPA's understanding of the industry indicates that technician 
errors can result in refrigerant mixing, and catastrophic equipment 
failure as a result. The agency's understanding is consistent with and 
supported by information that stakeholders have provided to the agency, 
including information submitted during the development of this 
rulemaking and included in the record for this rule. Moreover, the EPA 
has supporting evidence from enforcement actions pertaining to R-22a 
and reported reclamation data that mixing does occur. Many entities 
including refrigerant reclaimers, equipment manufacturers, technicians, 
and equipment owners have notified the agency that mixed refrigerant is 
becoming increasingly prevalent as the number of substitutes for ODS in 
use increases. The EPA finds credible the information provided by 
commenters who identified examples of refrigerant releases related to 
mixing of refrigerants or attempted improper retrofit or other 
maintenance.
    Evidence of refrigerant mixing comes from data reported to the EPA 
by reclaimers. The amount of mixed refrigerant being received by 
reclaimers has been increasing since 2012 by total volume or since 2013 
as a percentage of the amount of refrigerant sent for reclamation. 
These data support the anecdotal statements and comments made by 
individual reclaimers and technicians that they are encountering more 
mixed refrigerant. The data are available on the EPA's website and some 
of the comments and statements are in the docket to this rule.\19\ The 
EPA also expects that the reported data are an underestimate of the 
total amount of mixed refrigerant since mixed refrigerant is often 
vented or not sent to reclaimers, and thus those amounts are 
unavailable to be reported.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \19\ Mixed Refrigerant Received Totals by Year (Pounds), 
available at https://www.epa.gov/section608/summary-refrigerant-reclamation-trends.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In addition, as discussed in the 2016 Rule, the use of R-22a (a 
non-exempt substitute refrigerant) as a replacement for R-22 (an ODS 
refrigerant) indicates to the EPA that people are purchasing their own 
refrigerant and adding it to systems with ODS refrigerant. R-22a, which 
is propane, in some cases mixed with isobutane and an odorant, has been 
marketed as a ``drop-in'' (or more appropriately termed a ``retrofit'') 
replacement for existing equipment, typically residential split air-
conditioning systems, which are designed for use with HCFCs or HFCs. 
The EPA has listed propane and R-22a as well as all ASHRAE Flammability 
Class 3 Refrigerants as unacceptable for retrofit in residential and 
light commercial unitary split AC and heat pumps under the Significant 
New Alternatives Policy program. The Agency learned through its 
enforcement actions against Enviro-Safe and Northcutt, two distributors 
of R-22a, and through other investigations, that R-22a has been sold to 
both consumers and certified technicians. Often the buyers are not 
aware there is a difference between R-22 and R-22a, or even that R-22a 
is flammable. As a result, appliances have exploded, resulting in the 
release of refrigerant that consists in part of ODS, and people have 
been injured. Together, this data from reclaimers and information on R-
22a support the view that applying the sales restriction and technician 
certification requirements to non-exempt substitute refrigerants serves 
the purposes of section 608(a) because it prevents the mixing and 
subsequent release of ODS refrigerants, including in mixtures with 
substitute refrigerants.
    Two commenters state that cross-contamination of ODS and non-exempt 
substitute refrigerant does not occur because they operate at different 
pressures so there are no concerns that ODS will be emitted if there 
are no

[[Page 14165]]

controls on substitute refrigerants. In contrast, another commenter 
states that many class II (and in some cases, class I) substances can 
be used interchangeably with HFCs and other substitute refrigerants, 
though sometimes requiring equipment modification. Other commenters 
state that ODS and ODS substitutes can be used interchangeably in many 
applications, and service technicians are likely to encounter both 
types of refrigerants. In California, approximately 17% of reporting 
facilities have both ODS and HFC systems.
    The EPA disagrees with the comment saying that cross-contamination 
of ODS and non-exempt substitute refrigerant cannot occur because they 
operate at different pressures. R-22 has been the dominant ODS 
refrigerant and is being replaced with several non-exempt substitute 
refrigerants that operate at similar pressures (e.g., R-404A, R-407A, 
and R-407C). In those situations, cross-contamination of ODS and 
substitute refrigerant, refrigerant mixing, and related releases of ODS 
can occur. The EPA agrees with the comments that ODS and substitute 
refrigerants have inappropriately been used interchangeably. The EPA 
frequently hears from industry stakeholders, similar to comments 
received on the proposal, that technicians are ``topping off'' R-22 
systems with non-exempt substitute refrigerant, particularly during the 
final stages of the R-22 phaseout which has seen price spikes. Improper 
retrofits or refrigerant mixing can occur even when the operating 
pressure is different, especially when appliances are serviced by 
untrained personnel. This mixing of refrigerant with different 
operating pressure makes catastrophic equipment failure and release of 
the refrigerant charge even more likely.
    A few commenters state that eliminating the reclamation requirement 
for non-exempt substitute refrigerants would set in motion market 
forces that would ultimately result in an increase in ODS emissions. 
Specifically, the commenter states that technicians would resell 
recovered substitute refrigerants to other customers rather than 
sending them for reclamation. This would reduce the profitability and 
ability of reclaimers to reclaim the ODS refrigerants that they do 
receive. The comment explains that reclaimers might stop accepting ODS 
refrigerants and technicians would then either resell contaminated 
refrigerant, vent the ODS refrigerants to the atmosphere, or pay for 
proper disposal, likely in that order.
    The EPA agrees with the comments that rescinding the reclamation 
requirements for non-exempt substitute refrigerants would likely result 
in an increase in ODS emissions. As discussed further in Section II.D. 
of this document, the reclamation requirements for non-exempt 
substitute refrigerant prohibit the resale of mixed used refrigerant 
and support a market-based process from the technician or recovery 
company to the refrigerant distributor and ultimately the reclaimer to 
return used ODS and non-exempt substitute refrigerant to the same 
purity level as newly produced refrigerant. The requirement that 
recovered ODS and non-exempt substitute refrigerant be reclaimed to 
meet industry purity standards before being resold, with limited 
exceptions, implements the direction in section 608(a)(3) to reduce the 
use and emission of ODS to the lowest achievable level, and to maximize 
the recapture and recycling of such substances, as explained further in 
Section II.D. of this document. The EPA concludes that section 608 
provides the EPA authority for the 2016 Rule's extension of the 
reclamation requirements to substitute refrigerants and is therefore 
not finalizing a rescission of the reclamation standards.

D. Comments Regarding How Holistic Interpretations of Section 608 and 
Other Sections of Title VI May Relate to EPA's Authority To Regulate 
Substitute Refrigerants

    One commenter states that the EPA must read section 608 as a whole, 
consistent with giving meaning to the full statutory provision. This 
commenter further asserts that doing so shows that Congress intended to 
only stagger requirements for ODS and non-exempt substitutes, with ODS 
requirements applying starting in 1992 and those for substitutes 
starting in 1995, not to create a more limited regulatory program for 
substitutes. A few commenters state that section 608(a) is broader than 
608(c) in that it provides the EPA the authority to regulate ``use'' of 
an ODS while 608(c) is limited to service, maintenance, repair, or 
disposal of an appliance. These commenters state that this difference 
in wording indicates that Congress intended for different requirements 
to apply to ODS and substitutes. Another commenter states that because 
section 608(c)(2) extends to the ``knowing release'' or the disposal of 
substitutes, it provides broader legal authority than exists within the 
Administrator's authority to establish standards regarding the ``use 
and disposal of class I substances'' under CAA section 608(a), offering 
the example that CAA section 608(c) authority extends to any 
``release'' whether by means other than use or disposal.
    The EPA responds that the agency has appropriately considered the 
authority granted to the agency under section 608, considering that 
section as a whole, in reaching the interpretations supporting this 
action. Based on that consideration, the EPA disagrees that reading 
608(a) and (c) together indicates that Congress intended simply to 
stagger similar requirements for ODS and substitutes. Were this the 
case, Congress could have inserted requirements to regulate substitutes 
in 608(a) that were effective in 1995, in a similar manner to the way 
it made the venting prohibition effective for substitutes effective 
November 15, 1995 in 608(c)(2). But it did not. While Congress chose to 
stagger the requirements in 608(a) for class I and class II ODS, with 
section 608(a)(1) requiring the EPA to issue certain regulations for 
class I substances by January 1, 1992, and 608(a)(2) requiring other 
regulations for class I and class II substances by November 15, 1994, 
it did not include such a staggered date for substitutes. Nor did it 
even mention substitutes in these provisions. Similarly, while Congress 
staggered the application of the venting prohibition in section 608(c) 
to ODS and substitutes, that only indicates that Congress intended for 
the venting prohibition to apply equally to both substitutes and ODS 
after November 15, 1995. As explained in greater detail in Section II 
of this document, the EPA concludes that, reading section 608 as a 
whole, its authority to address substitutes under section 608 is more 
limited than its authority to address ODS.
    The EPA agrees with the comment that that the verbs used in section 
608(a) suggest a broader scope of authority than those in 608(c). As 
noted in Section II above, sections 608(a)(1) and (2) broadly authorize 
regulations for the ``use and disposal'' of ODS, and section 608(a)(2) 
clarifies that this ``includ[es] use and disposal during service, 
repair, or disposal'' of appliances. The term ``includ[es]'' in 
608(a)(2) indicates that ``use and disposal'' can occur during 
activities other than ``service, repair, or disposal.'' These are three 
of the four activities mentioned in section 608(c), which prohibits 
knowing releases ``in the course of maintaining, servicing, repairing, 
or disposing'' of appliances. As explained elsewhere in this document, 
the EPA interprets the fourth term, ``maintaining,'' as similar in 
scope to ``servicing, repairing, or disposing'' and to refer to work 
done on an appliance in furtherance of its

[[Page 14166]]

continued functioning or to preserve its existing state of repair. 
Thus, the EPA concludes that Congress envisioned that the regulations 
under section 608(a) would affect a broader range of activities than 
those under section 608(c). In addition, as described in greater detail 
in Section II above, the EPA now reads sections 608(a) and (c) together 
to determine that its authority is more limited for substitute 
refrigerants than for ODS. However, the EPA does not believe that this 
means none of the same provisions can be applied to ODS and substitute 
refrigerants. Rather, the EPA believes the same provision can apply to 
both ODS and substitute refrigerants where the agency can reasonably 
conclude that extending a requirement that previously only applied to 
ODS refrigerants to substitute refrigerants is an appropriate 
application of its authority under either section 608(a) or (c), under 
the interpretive framework set forth in Section II above. The EPA 
disagrees with the comment that 608(c)(2) is broader than 608(a) 
because it extends to ``any release.'' As discussed in Section II, the 
releases prohibited under section 608(c)(2) are limited to those that 
occur ``in the course of maintaining, servicing, repairing, or 
disposing'' of appliances, a narrower range of activities than the 
broad range of ``use and disposal'' activities featured in section 
608(a). Two commenters state that reading sections 608 and 612 together 
indicates that Congress sought to avoid solving one problem (ozone 
depletion) only to create another, in this case GHG emissions. They 
argue that given the policy choices that are embodied in section 612--
to replace ODS with substitutes that lower the overall risks to human 
health and the environment--and the fact that HFCs have not been 
exempted from the venting prohibition, the EPA should take an expansive 
read of the Agency's authority to regulate substitutes.
    The EPA responds that CAA sections 612 and 608 are distinct 
provisions, and the EPA does not believe it is reasonable to interpret 
the policy objectives of section 612 as expanding the agency's ability 
to regulate substitutes under section 608 beyond the authority conveyed 
in the text of 608 itself. As explained in Section II above, because 
the agency has determined that the 2016 Rule's extension of the leak 
repair requirements to appliances using only non-exempt substitute 
refrigerant exceeds its statutory authority, it is rescinding that 
extension.
    Another commenter states that reading 608 and 609 together 
indicates that Congress was capable of clearly indicating when it 
intended for ODS and substitutes to be treated the same, and that it 
chose not to do so in 608. In support of this argument, the commenter 
points out that the definition of refrigerant in section 609 includes 
class I and class II substances, as well as any substitute substance 
beginning November 15, 1995. The EPA responds that as described in 
greater detail in Section II above, it interprets its authority to 
address substitutes under section 608 as more limited than its 
authority to address ODS, based in part on the inclusion of the term 
``substitute'' in section 608(c)(2) but not sections 608(a)(1) and (2). 
Section 609 is a distinct provision from section 608 and is highly 
specialized, being focused on motor vehicle air conditioners, which 
were one of the first uses to transition to substitutes. The EPA 
believes this comment provides additional support for the agency's 
conclusion that its authority to regulate substitutes under section 608 
is not as extensive as its authority to regulate ODS. However, the EPA 
does not believe that section 609 should be read to suggest that the 
agency has no authority to regulate substitute refrigerants under 
section 608, as section 608(c), like section 609, does mention both ODS 
and substitute refrigerants and applies the venting prohibition to both 
beginning November 15, 1995. Nor does anything in section 609 indicate 
whether certain refrigerant management requirements for substitutes 
might be necessary to achieve the purposes of section 608(a), which 
covers a broad range of uses, with widely varying timelines for the 
transition from ODS. For the reasons described further in Section II, 
the agency continues to reasonably interpret both section 608(a) and 
(c) to provide some authority to regulate substitute refrigerants, to 
the extent consistent with the text of those provisions, and this 
action appropriately aligns its regulation of substitute refrigerants 
with its statutory authority under 608.
    One commenter states that the name of Title VI (Stratospheric Ozone 
Protection) indicates that Congress intended to only address 
stratospheric ozone depletion, not GHG emissions. The EPA responds that 
this action addresses non-exempt substitutes without distinction as to 
whether they are GHGs and indeed without distinction as to any other 
attribute. Further, the text of 608(c) demonstrates that Congress was 
addressing both class I and class II refrigerants and substitute 
refrigerants. Congress specifically applied the venting prohibition to 
substitutes, and, as indicated by the provision that allows the EPA to 
exempt substitute refrigerants from the venting prohibition if it 
determines that venting, release, or disposal of such substitute does 
not pose a threat to the environment, specifically contemplated that 
threats to the environment other than stratospheric ozone depletion 
would be considered in implementing the venting prohibition under 
section 608(c)(2). In addition, the Supreme Court has recognized the 
``wise rule that the title of a statute and the heading of a section 
cannot limit the plain meaning of the text''; while they may provide a 
``short-hand reference to the general subject matter involved,'' they 
are not ``necessarily designed to be a reference guide or a synopsis.'' 
Bhd. of R.R. Trainmen v. Balt. & O.R. Co., 331 U.S. 519, 528-29 (1947) 
(internal citations omitted). Thus, the EPA does not interpret the 
title of Title VI as precluding it from regulating substitute 
refrigerants, where such regulation is otherwise authorized under the 
Act. Moreover, as described in Section II above, in re-assessing the 
scope of its authority for the 2016 Rule's extension of subpart F 
provisions to substitute refrigerants, the EPA has considered whether 
the extension of those provisions serve the purposes of section 608(a) 
by maximizing recyling or recovery of ODS and/or reducing emissions of 
ODS to the lowest achievable level and has determined that the 
extension of those provisions with the exception of the leak repair 
requirements met such purposes.
    Three commenters cite section 602(e) for the proposition that 
Congress did not intend to address GHGs in any of Title VI. That 
section requires the EPA to publish the global warming potential (GWP) 
of class I and class II substances but states that such required 
publication ``shall not be construed to be the basis of any additional 
regulation under this chapter.'' The EPA responds, as above, that this 
action addresses non-exempt substitutes without distinction as to 
whether they are GHGs and indeed without distinction as to any other 
attribute. Regardless, section 602(e) does not mention substitutes. 
Section 602(e) relates to the GWPs of ODS, and neither directs the 
publication of GWPs of substitutes nor makes any statement regarding 
regulation of such substances. In any event, the EPA is not regulating 
either ODS or substitutes on the basis of their GWP in this action. 
Furthermore, the EPA did not rely on section 602 as authority for the 
extension of subpart F to non-exempt substitutes in 2016, nor is it 
relying on section 602 for the action

[[Page 14167]]

being taken in this rulemaking. In the 2016 Rule, the EPA extended the 
subpart F regulations to all substitute refrigerants that are not 
exempt from the venting prohibition irrespective of their GWPs. In this 
action, the agency's decision to rescind the 2016 Rule's extension of 
the leak repair requirements to equipment containing only non-exempt 
substitute refrigerants is based on the conclusion that the extension 
exceeded the agency's authority under section 608 because it was based 
on an unreasonable interpretation of that authority.

E. Comments Regarding Whether the Agency Has Provided a Reasoned Basis 
for This Action

    One commenter states that the EPA's reinterpretation of its legal 
authority fits squarely within the authority that supports an agency's 
ability to change its policy (citing Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v. NRDC, 
Inc., 467 U.S. 837, 863-64 (1984)). Some commenters state that the EPA 
has not offered an adequate rationale for this action and fault the 
agency for not providing substantial evidence for changing its previous 
findings. These commenters state that when changing policy, ``a 
reasoned explanation is needed for disregarding facts and circumstances 
that underlay or were engendered by the prior policy'' (citing FCC v. 
Fox Television Stations, 556 U.S. 502, 516 (2009)). Another commenter 
states that the EPA failed to provide the requisite ``good reasons'' 
for its change (citing id. at 515). Some of these commenters state that 
``an agency changing its course by rescinding a rule is obligated to 
supply a reasoned analysis for the change beyond that which may be 
required when an agency does not act in the first instance'' (citing 
Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Ass'n v. State Farm Mutual Auto Ins. Co., 463 U.S. 
29, 42 (1983)) and argue that the EPA has failed to provide a 
sufficient justification for the change. Other commenters state that 
the EPA ignores the fact that harmful emissions would increase under 
today's action, arguing that this shows that the EPA has failed to 
``examine the relevant data and articulate a satisfactory explanation 
for its action including a rational connection between the facts found 
and the choice made'' (citing State Farm, 463 U.S. at 43)).
    The EPA disagrees that the agency has failed to provide an adequate 
rationale for this regulatory change. To begin, we note that the agency 
``obviously ha[s] broad discretion to reconsider a regulation at any 
time,'' Clean Air Council, 862 F.3d at 8-9, as long as it provides a 
reasoned explanation for its action. See, e.g., Encino Motorcars, 136 
S.Ct. at 2125. As discussed elsewhere in this preamble, including in 
detail in Section II above, the reason for today's action is not a 
change in policy, but rather a determination that the agency exceeded 
the scope of its legal authority under the CAA in the 2016 Rule by 
extending the leak repair provisions to equipment containing only non-
exempt substitute refrigerants based on an unreasonable interpretation 
of its authority. The EPA has provided a reasoned explanation of its 
current interpretation of its legal authority in Section II of this 
document and explained why that interpretation requires the rescission 
of the 2016 extension of the leak repair requirements to substitute 
refrigerants. Even if the facts and circumstances that underlay that 
extension, or were engendered by it, could be cited to provide a policy 
basis for applying the leak repair requirements to non-exempt 
substitute refrigerants, the EPA cannot do that because doing so 
exceeds its legal authority. An agency may ``justify its policy choice 
by explaining why that policy `is more consistent with statutory 
language' than alternative policies,'' Encino Motorcars, 136 S.Ct. at 
2127 (quoting Long Island Care at Home Ltd. v. Coke, 551 U.S. 158, 175 
(2007)), as the agency has done here. In addition, the agency does not 
agree with the commenters' claim that it needs to provide more 
rationale for this change than if it were acting in the first instance. 
See Encino Motorcars, 136 S.Ct. at 2126 (``When an agency changes its 
existing position, it `need not always provide a more detailed 
justification than what would suffice for a new policy created on a 
blank slate.' '') (quoting FCC v. Fox Television Stations, Inc., 556 
U.S. 502, 515 (2009)). However, even if it did, the EPA believes that 
the detailed description in Section II of this document would satisfy 
that standard, especially considering that it is undertaking this 
action to rescind a regulatory provision that exceeds its statutory 
authority. Accordingly, the EPA agrees with the comments that stated 
this action is well within the agency's authority to change existing 
regulatory requirements.
    Two commenters state that rescinding the leak repair provision for 
non-exempt substitutes is arbitrary and capricious because it would 
result in more of the pollution the CAA seeks to limit and then goes on 
to discuss the forgone annual GHG emissions reductions. They also state 
that the EPA has not explained how the new interpretation ``is 
rationally related to the goals of the statute.''
    The EPA does not agree that this action will result in increased 
emissions of the pollution that section 608 seeks to limit, nor that 
this action is not rationally related to the goals of the statute. With 
respect to section 608(a), that section focuses on reducing emissions 
of ODS. The EPA has been implementing regulations under section 608(a) 
of the CAA for decades and has been appropriately reducing the use and 
emission of ODS refrigerants through those regulations. As discussed in 
Section II above, the EPA has determined that leak repair provisions as 
applied to appliances containing only substitute refrigerants are not 
needed to reduce the use and emissions of ODS refrigerants or to 
maximize the recapture and recycling of ODS refrigerants, especially if 
the other subpart F provisions are in place for non-exempt substitutes. 
As explained in Section II of this document, the EPA concludes that 
this action is necessary because the 2016 Rule exceeded its statutory 
authority. With respect to section 608(c), the agency interprets 
section 608(c) to apply only to knowing releases that occur in the 
course of maintaining, servicing, repairing, or disposing of 
appliances. Because operational leaks of substitute refrigerants that 
would typically trigger the leak repair provisions do not occur during 
one of those four activities, the EPA does not agree that this action 
will result in increased emissions of the pollution that section 608(c) 
seeks to limit.

IV. Extension of the January 1, 2019 Compliance Date for the Appliance 
Maintenance and Leak Repair Provisions for Non-Exempt Substitute 
Refrigerants

    The 2016 Rule established a January 1, 2019 compliance date for the 
leak repair provisions. In establishing that compliance date, the 
agency had found that two years was sufficient time for owners and 
operators of appliances with 50 or more pounds of refrigerant to learn 
about the updated requirements and prepare for compliance. (81 FR 
82343). The 2018 proposal for this action explained that the EPA was 
evaluating whether that compliance date remained viable or whether it 
should be extended. The EPA proposed to take final action to extend the 
compliance date in Sec.  82.157(a) for appliances containing only non-
exempt substitute refrigerants if final action on the substantive 
portions of the proposed rule would not occur within a reasonable time 
before the existing compliance date. At that

[[Page 14168]]

time, however, the EPA lacked specific information relating to the 
continued viability of the compliance date. The EPA requested comment 
on whether facilities would encounter practical difficulties in meeting 
the compliance date and stated that it intended to consider such 
information in deciding whether a compliance date extension was needed. 
The EPA further requested comment on any hardship that owners or 
operators of appliances would face if the compliance date was not 
extended and on any forgone benefits from such an extension. Finally, 
the EPA requested comment on its ability to finalize a compliance date 
extension.
    Multiple commenters state that the EPA has the authority and should 
finalize an extension of the compliance date for the leak repair 
provisions as they apply to non-exempt substitutes. Several commenters 
state that the EPA should take a separate action to extend the 
compliance deadline. They argue that the extension would help eliminate 
the burden of implementing compliance plans that are expected to no 
longer be needed when the rule is finalized, and that the separate rule 
should be issued as far ahead of December 31, 2018 as is possible to 
minimize any burdens. Commenters state that a 6- to 12-month delay in 
compliance would provide certainty to the industry. Some suggest that 
the extension should be a full twelve months, which would move the 
compliance date to January 1, 2020. However, several other commenters 
do not support an extension of the compliance date. They state that the 
2016 Rule has been in effect since January 1, 2017, and that 
responsible regulated entities have planned for, invested in, and 
implemented changes necessary to comply with the applicable compliance 
deadlines, including January 1, 2019. Commenters state that the EPA has 
failed to provide any lawful basis for its proposal to delay the 
compliance date for the 2016 Rule.
    The EPA considered the comments received and is not finalizing, in 
this rulemaking or separately, an extension to the January 1, 2019 
compliance date for the application of the updated leak repair 
provisions to non-exempt substitute refrigerants. Even though some 
commenters thought an extension would reduce compliance costs, 
commenters also said that they were taking steps to comply and did not 
suggest that they would be unable to do so by January 1, 2019. With no 
information in the record to contradict the EPA's earlier findings that 
two years provided sufficient time to prepare for the January 1, 2019 
compliance date, this final rule rescinds the leak repair requirements 
for appliances that contain non-exempt substitute refrigerants without 
any extension of that compliance date.

V. Economic Analysis

    The EPA does not interpret section 608 to require it to consider 
costs and benefits or select the option with the best cost-benefit 
outcome. Section 608 does not explicitly address whether costs or 
benefits should be considered in developing regulations under that 
section. Because the statutory language does not dictate a particular 
means of taking economic factors into account, if at all, the EPA has 
discretion to adopt a reasonable method for doing so. In this rule, the 
EPA has focused on the proper scope of the agency's authority to 
regulate.
    The EPA is removing the requirement to comply with the leak repair 
provisions for appliances containing only non-exempt substitute 
refrigerants as the EPA has determined that the 2016 Rule's extension 
of those provisions to non-exempt substitute refrigerants exceeded the 
agency's statutory authority because it relied on an unreasonable 
interpretation of that authority. These provisions include requirements 
to repair equipment that is leaking above the regulatory threshold, 
along with the associated verification tests, leak inspections, and 
recordkeeping.
    Details of the methods used to estimate the costs and benefits of 
this rule are discussed in the Analysis of the Economic Impact of the 
Proposed 2018 Revisions to the National Recycling and Emission 
Reduction Program in the docket. For a complete description of the 
methodology used in the EPA's analysis, see Section VI of the 2016 Rule 
(81 FR 82344) and the technical support document for the 2016 Rule 
which is also available in the docket for this action. While the EPA is 
providing this information to help the public understand the 
implications of this action compared to those considered in the 
economic analysis provided for the 2016 Rule, this action is not based 
on consideration of this information. Rather, this action is based on 
changes in the agency's legal interpretation of the scope of its 
statutory authority, as described in earlier sections of this document.
    The EPA received several comments on the economic analysis included 
in the proposal. One commenter states that the EPA has the authority to 
take costs into consideration in finalizing the proposed rule even 
where the statute is silent, as confirmed by recent Supreme Court 
decisions. That commenter, and numerous other commenters, state that 
failure to consider a relevant factor such as cost could make the 
agency action unlawful. The EPA agrees as a general matter that the 
agency has the authority to consider costs and benefits in regulations 
promulgated under section 608. (See, e.g., 81 FR 82287). However, the 
consideration of costs and benefits described in the technical support 
documents in the docket are provided for purposes of transparency and 
to inform the public about the implications of this action relative to 
those described in the economic analysis provided for the 2016 Rule 
following agency guidance on assessing economic costs and benefits. 
This action rescinds the extension of requirements that exceeded the 
agency's statutory authority. The agency cannot impose obligations that 
exceed its statutory authority, irrespective of the costs and benefits 
associated with those requirements.
    The EPA received numerous comments on the agency's analysis of the 
costs and benefits of the proposed rule. Several commenters state that 
it is arbitrary to not monetize the climate damages caused by the 
forgone emission reductions resulting from rescinding the extension of 
the leak repair provisions to non-exempt substitutes. Commenters also 
argue that: Use of the Interagency Working Group's social cost of GHGs 
metric would have found that the climate damages of the proposed rule's 
forgone emissions reductions outweigh the estimated cost savings; it is 
arbitrary for the agency to not use any monetary value for fluorinated 
gases; and the EPA has previously found that HFCs endanger public 
health and welfare, so the agency cannot ignore GHG emissions which may 
result. Commenters also state that the EPA did not consider the effect 
that the proposed rule would have on operating costs of leaking 
systems, the shortened lifespans and increased equipment failures of 
systems allowed to operate with leaks, costs to companies that have 
created innovative products to facilitate compliance, and decreased 
yields of products generated through IPR processes. Some commenters 
also state that rescinding the leak detection and repair program would 
result in higher costs for consumers as well as lost jobs in the air 
conditioning and refrigeration industry. Others state that compliance 
costs will increase as companies will need to ensure compliance with 
two different regulatory frameworks.
    The EPA disagrees with the comments suggesting that it has ignored 
the increased GHG emissions, as it has quantified the expected increase 
in those emissions and reflected them in

[[Page 14169]]

its analysis. Today's action is not based on a cost-benefit analysis of 
retaining or rescinding various provisions or on any other 
consideration of the costs and benefits of various policy options, but 
rather is focused solely on whether the agency had the statutory 
authority to extend elements of the refrigerant management program to 
non-exempt substitute refrigerants in the 2016 Rule. If the agency does 
not have legal authority to impose a requirement, it cannot do so, even 
if that action would be environmentally or economically beneficial. As 
noted above, the technical support documents in the docket are provided 
to inform the public about the implications of this action relative to 
those described in the economic analysis provided for the 2016 Rule. 
The EPA did not monetize the GHG effects in the economic analysis for 
the 2016 Rule, nor did it quantify the other types of indirect costs 
raised in the comments. The EPA observes that the 2016 Technical 
Support Document for the 2016 Rule notes that the final rule, ``may 
result in other economic health and environmental benefits that are not 
quantified or monetized in this conservative analysis.'' \20\ EPA is 
rescinding the 2016 Rule's extension of the leak repair requirements to 
equipment containing only non-exempt substitute refrigerants, therefore 
the unquantified benefits related to the extension of such requirements 
will no longer be attributable to the EPA's refrigerant management 
program. Consistent with the agency's overall approach taken in the 
2016 Rule, the EPA is not monetizing the GHG effects of this action. 
Similarly, the EPA is not quantifying other indirect costs or 
distributional effects raised by commenters. While such analyses are 
not relevant to the basis for this action, for informational purposes 
we observe that estimating distribution effects such as job loss is 
very difficult to quantitatively assess: Regulatory employment impacts 
can vary across occupations, regions, and industries; by labor demand 
and supply elasticities; and in response to other labor market 
conditions. Isolating such impacts is a challenge, as they are 
difficult to disentangle from employment impacts caused by a wide 
variety of ongoing, concurrent economic changes.\21\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \20\ Technical Support Document, Analysis of the Economic 
Impacts and Benefits of the Final Revisions to the National 
Recycling and Emission Reduction Program, September 2, 2016, pgs. 
60-63.
    \21\ For a more detailed discussion, see, e.g., Economic 
Analysis for Proposed Regulation of Persistent, Bioaccumulative, and 
Toxic Chemicals Under TSCA section 6(h), June 2019; Regulatory 
Impact Analysis for the Proposed Oil and Natural Gas Sector: 
Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources 
Review; EPA-452/R-19-001, August 2019.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    One commenter states that the agency failed to quantify the extra 
ODS emissions that would result from unraveling the uniform regulatory 
framework for substitute refrigerants. Another commenter notes that the 
EPA's estimated forgone GHG emissions reductions do not consider 
appliances' end-of-life emissions. The EPA responds that, aside from 
the leak repair provisions, the EPA is retaining the extension of all 
the subpart F requirements to non-exempt substitute refrigerants, 
including the service practices, which require specific evacuation 
levels before disposing of an appliance or opening it for service, use 
of certified recovery equipment, and the technician certification 
requirement. In addition, the venting prohibition continues to apply to 
any knowing release, venting, or disposal of ODS or non-exempt 
substitute refrigerant by any person maintaining, servicing, repairing, 
or disposing of an appliance. As such, the EPA believes that end-of-
life emissions of both ODS and non-exempt substitute refrigerant will 
not be affected by this final rule and were properly not included in 
the agency's analysis. Similarly, the EPA properly did not include any 
ODS emissions that would result from rescinding the non-leak repair 
subpart F provisions in its analysis for the final rule, as it is not 
rescinding the extension of those provisions.
    Several commenters state that the compliance costs of the 2016 Rule 
were too great and presented an unnecessary burden. One commenter 
states that the $24 million in annual savings likely underestimates the 
costs of the 2016 Rule. One commenter states that the EPA has not fully 
considered the impacts of the 2016 Rule on companies, institutions like 
hospitals and schools, and homeowners. With the transition to HFCs and 
HFOs, these entities have made costly investments in systems, but found 
higher repair costs. Likewise, this commenter states that the EPA did 
not consider the costs to install new IPR using non-ODS refrigerants.
    The EPA responds that the costs of the 2016 Rule are outside the 
scope of this action, which is only to rescind the 2016 Rule's 
extension of requirements to non-exempt substitute refrigerants that 
exceeded the agency's statutory authority.
    The EPA received many comments from the refrigeration and air 
conditioning industry that they have spent time and money to comply 
with the various provisions of the 2016 Rule. This includes costs 
associated with training staff, updating reporting and recordkeeping 
software, revising and republishing testing materials, and identifying 
affected appliances and individuals responsible to ensure compliance.
    The EPA responds that the consideration of costs, including 
reliance interests, is not relevant to this action because the 
rescission here is based on the agency's lack of legal authority for 
the 2016 Rule's extension of the leak repair provisions, not on a cost/
benefit analysis or policy considerations. As noted above, if the 
agency does not have legal authority to impose a requirement, it cannot 
do so, even if retaining that requirement would be economically 
beneficial to some entities. However, the EPA notes that this action 
does not rescind the extension of most of the provisions that the 
commenters mention as a concern, including the leak repair provisions 
for appliances containing ODS, and therefore those investments will not 
be stranded as a result of this action. The EPA is rescinding the 2016 
Rule's extension of the leak repair provisions as they apply to 
equipment containing only non-exempt substitute refrigerants, but it is 
retaining the extension of the other subpart F requirements, such as 
those pertaining to reclamation. This rule does not impose any new 
reporting or recordkeeping obligations.
    One commenter states that the EPA failed to distinguish between 
private and social benefits, and that some costs of this action should 
not be counted if the regulated entity had the same or similar options 
available to identify and repair refrigerant leaks prior to the 
rulemaking. This comment referred specifically to the estimated $15 
million in refrigerant purchases that will be made as a result of this 
action by owners and operators of equipment with non-exempt 
substitutes.
    As explained above, consideration of the costs and benefits of this 
action is not part of the rationale for this action and does not inform 
the EPA's decision on this rule. Rather, this action is based on the 
agency's determination that the 2016 Rule's extension of the leak 
repair provisions to non-exempt substitute refrigerants exceeded the 
agency's statutory authority. The EPA additionally notes that while it 
is true that the costs of purchasing additional refrigerant will fall 
on private entities, it is those same private entities that will secure 
a reduction in burden from the rescission of the leak repair 
requirements of the 2016 Rule as they apply to equipment containing 
only

[[Page 14170]]

non-exempt substitute refrigerants. To present one of these effects 
without the other would fail to recognize the fact that the two effects 
are inextricably related. Further, it is standard practice for the EPA, 
consistent with the agency's Guidelines for Preparing Economic 
Analyses,\22\ to consider increased direct outlays of money by 
regulated entities due to an action relative to a baseline without that 
action as costs of the action. Any entity that did not repair a leaking 
appliance that they would have been required to repair before today's 
action would need to allocate some part of its resources to buying 
replacement refrigerant that otherwise could have been used for capital 
investment, increasing production, or profit. Under the agency's 
Guidelines, it is appropriate to consider the replacement refrigerant 
costs as opportunity costs when preparing an economic analysis.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \22\ The Guidelines can be found at https://www.epa.gov/environmental-economics/guidelines-preparing-economic-analyses. See 
Chapter 8 titled ``Analyzing Costs.''
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The agency agrees that the nature of private costs in this case 
merits a separate accounting in a discussion of the total benefits and 
costs of a rule. We have enumerated the costs of purchasing additional 
refrigerant separate from the deregulatory benefits.

VI. Statutory and Executive Order Reviews

A. Executive Order 12866: Regulatory Planning and Review and Executive 
Order 13563: Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review

    This action is a significant regulatory action that was submitted 
to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review. Any changes 
made in response to OMB recommendations have been documented in the 
docket. The EPA prepared an economic analysis of the costs and benefits 
associated with this action which is available in Docket Number EPA-HQ-
OAR-2017-0629.

B. Executive Order 13771: Reducing Regulations and Controlling 
Regulatory Costs

    This action is considered an Executive Order 13771 deregulatory 
action. Details on the estimated cost savings of this final rule can be 
found in the EPA's analysis of the potential costs and benefits 
associated with this action.

C. Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA)

    The information collection activities in this rule have been 
submitted for approval to OMB under the PRA. The Information Collection 
Request (ICR) document that the EPA prepared has been assigned EPA ICR 
number 1626.17; Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Control Number: 
2060-0256. You can find a copy of the ICR and supporting statement in 
the docket for this rule, and it is briefly summarized here. The 
information collection requirements are not enforceable until OMB 
approves them.
    Through this rule, EPA is revising the leak repair provisions in 
Sec.  82.157 so they apply only to equipment using ODS refrigerants or 
a blend containing ODS refrigerant.
    Respondents/affected entities: This rule removes reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements for owners and operators of appliances 
containing 50 or more pounds of a non-exempt substitute refrigerant and 
technicians servicing such appliances. Entities required to comply with 
reporting and recordkeeping requirements include technicians; 
technician certification programs; refrigerant wholesalers; refrigerant 
reclaimers; refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment owners and/or 
operators; and other establishments that perform refrigerant removal, 
service, or disposal.
    Respondent's obligation to respond: Mandatory (40 CFR part 82, 
subpart F).
    Estimated number of respondents: This rule reduces the estimated 
number of respondents from 861,374 under the 2016 Rule to 573,731.
    Frequency of response: The frequency of responses vary from once a 
year to daily. Public reporting burden for this collection of 
information is estimated to vary from one minute to 9.4 hours per 
response, including time for reviewing instructions and gathering, 
maintaining, and submitting information.
    Total estimated burden: This rule reduces the estimated annual 
recordkeeping and reporting burden from 580,473 hours under the 2016 
Rule to 434,359 hours. Burden is defined at 5 CFR 1320.3(b).
    Total estimated cost: This rule reduces the estimated annual 
recordkeeping and reporting cost from $34,627,298 under the 2016 Rule 
to $24,625,892. There are no estimated annualized capital or operation 
and maintenance costs associated with the reporting or recordkeeping 
requirements.
    An agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required 
to respond to, a collection of information unless it displays a 
currently valid OMB control number. The OMB control numbers for the 
EPA's regulations in 40 CFR are listed in 40 CFR part 9.

D. Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA)

    I certify that this action will not have a significant economic 
impact on a substantial number of small entities under the RFA. In 
making this determination, the impact of concern is any significant 
adverse economic impact on small entities. An agency may certify that a 
rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial 
number of small entities if the rule relieves regulatory burden, has no 
net burden or otherwise has a positive economic effect on the small 
entities subject to the rule. This rule does not impose any new 
regulatory requirements. It is deregulatory in that it removes required 
leak repair and maintenance practices and associated recordkeeping for 
appliances that do not contain any ODS refrigerant. We have therefore 
concluded that this action will relieve regulatory burden for directly 
regulated small entities.

E. Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

    This action does not contain any unfunded mandate as described in 
UMRA, 2 U.S.C. 1531-1538, and does not significantly or uniquely affect 
small governments. The action imposes no enforceable duty on any state, 
local or tribal governments or the private sector.

F. Executive Order 13132: Federalism

    This action does not have federalism implications. It will not have 
substantial direct effects on the states, on the relationship between 
the national government and the states, or on the distribution of power 
and responsibilities among the various levels of government.

G. Executive Order 13175: Consultation and Coordination With Indian 
Tribal Governments

    This action does not have tribal implications as specified in 
Executive Order 13175. It will not have substantial direct effects on 
tribal governments, on the relationship between the federal government 
and Indian tribes, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities 
between the federal government and Indian tribes, as specified in 
Executive Order 13175. Thus, Executive Order 13175 does not apply to 
this action.

H. Executive Order 13045: Protection of Children From Environmental 
Health Risks and Safety Risks

    This action is not subject to Executive Order 13045 because it is 
not economically significant as defined in Executive Order 12866. The 
EPA has not conducted a separate analysis of

[[Page 14171]]

risks to infants and children associated with this rule.

I. Executive Order 13211: Actions That Significantly Affect Energy 
Supply, Distribution, or Use

    This action is not a ``significant energy action'' because it is 
not likely to have a significant adverse effect on the supply, 
distribution, or use of energy.

J. National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (NTTAA)

    This rulemaking does not involve technical standards.

K. Executive Order 12898: Federal Actions To Address Environmental 
Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations

    The EPA believes that it is not feasible to quantify any 
disproportionately high and adverse effects from this action on 
minority populations, low-income populations and/or indigenous peoples, 
as specified in Executive Order 12898 (59 FR 7629, February 16, 1994).

L. Congressional Review Act (CRA)

    This action is subject to the CRA, and the EPA will submit a rule 
report to each House of the Congress and to the Comptroller General of 
the United States. This action is not a ``major rule'' as defined by 5 
U.S.C. 804(2).

List of Subjects in 40 CFR Part 82

    Environmental protection, Air pollution control, Chemicals, 
Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    Dated: February 26, 2020.
Andrew R. Wheeler,
Administrator.

    For the reasons set forth in the preamble, the Environmental 
Protection Agency amends 40 CFR part 82 as follows:

PART 82--PROTECTION OF STRATOSPHERIC OZONE

0
1. The authority citation for part 82 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  42 U.S.C. 7414, 7601, 7671-7671q.


0
2. Amend Sec.  82.154 by revising paragraph (a)(2)(i) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  82.154   Prohibitions.

    (a) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (i) The applicable practices in Sec. Sec.  82.155 and 82.156 are 
observed, the applicable practices in Sec.  82.157 are observed for 
appliances that contain any class I or class II refrigerant or blend 
containing a class I or class II refrigerant, recovery and/or recycling 
machines that meet the requirements in Sec.  82.158 are used whenever 
refrigerant is removed from an appliance, the technician certification 
provisions in Sec.  82.161 are observed, and the reclamation 
requirements in Sec.  82.164 are observed; or
* * * * *

0
3. Amend Sec.  82.157 by revising paragraph (a) to read as follows:


Sec.  82.157   Appliance maintenance and leak repair.

    (a) Applicability. This section applies as of January 1, 2019. As 
of April 10, 2020, this section applies only to appliances with a full 
charge of 50 or more pounds of any class I or class II refrigerant or 
blend containing a class I or class II refrigerant. Notwithstanding the 
use of the term refrigerant in this section, the requirements of this 
section do not apply to appliances containing solely substitute 
refrigerants. Unless otherwise specified, the requirements of this 
section apply to the owner or operator of the appliance.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2020-04773 Filed 3-10-20; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 6560-50-P