EPA Announces Full Phaseout of CFCs and Other Ozone Depleters

[EPA press release - November 30, 1993]

EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner today announced a final rule to fully phase out domestic production and imports of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and six other substances that deplete the stratospheric ozone layer. The ozone layer deflects dangerous ultraviolet radiation and is vital to the protection of human life.

"Protecting the ozone layer--our 'shield in the sky'--means protecting human health," said Browner. "Phasing out products that deplete ozone will prevent millions of cases of skin cancer and cataracts."

The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 required EPA to phase out the production and importing of five ozone depleters: CFCs, halons, carbon tetrachloride, methyl chloroform (all called Class I substances) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons or HCFCs (called Class II substances). The Amendments also gave EPA the responsibility to add other ozone depleters to the phaseout list.

Today's final rule requires that halons (used mainly in fire extinguishers), the most severe ozone depleters, be phased out by Jan. 1, 1994, and that CFCs, carbon tetrachloride and methyl chloroform be phased out by Jan. 1, 1996. The rule also requires that companies accelerate the phaseout of some HCFCs before 2030, with a complete phaseout of all forms by 2030.

The regulation also adds two new substances to the phaseout list: methyl bromide and hydrobromofluorocarbons (HBFCs), the former due for phaseout by Jan. 1, 2001, and the latter by Jan. 1, 1996. Methyl bromide is used primarily as an agricultural and soil fumigant and HBFCs are used in fire suppression systems. Both substances are now listed as Class I substances.

At the Fourth Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol in Copenhagen in November 1992, the parties agreed, among other actions, to freeze the production and consumption of methyl bromide. However, the 1990 U.S. Clean Air Act requires this country to phase out its production within seven years due to its high ozone-depleting potential. Today's rule will phase out the production and importing of methyl bromide by the year 2001, with a production freeze starting in 1994 at 1991 levels.

Methyl bromide is a widely-used fumigant and agricultural chemical. Near-term alternatives to methyl bromide exist for certain applications, and research is underway to find substitutes for all uses of this material. EPA is working closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the environmental community and the agricultural sector to find materials that can effectively manage those pests which are currently controlled by methyl bromide. Experts in the agricultural sector agree that good application practices can significantly reduce emissions of methyl bromide, particularly in soil fumigation, without reducing agricultural productivity. However, given the compound's significant capability of depleting stratospheric ozone, research is critical to finding reliable alternatives.

The 1990 Amendments originally set more lenient phaseout deadlines, but required EPA to accelerate these deadline under certain circumstances. Today's accelerated deadline rule is based on recent scientific information regarding unanticipated increases in the rate of stratospheric ozone depletion and on adjustments made to the Montreal Protocol at the Copenhagen meeting. The Montreal Protocol is an international agreement which controls, among the 126 nations which are currently parties, the production and trade of ozone depleters.

EPA emphasizes that the phaseout deadlines announced today affect only domestic production and importing. These substances can continue to be used after the deadlines if companies can find sources of supply through recycling or existing inventories. EPA also stresses that today's rule affects only stratospheric ozone, and has nothing to do with ground-level ozone, which contributes to smog.

Under EPA's phaseout program, companies are allocated production and importing allowances for ozone depleters based on prior production. The allowances will gradually be reduced each year until production and importing are eliminated.

The rule permits U.S. companies to produce ozone depleters in excess of their EPA allowances if necessary to supply the basic domestic needs of developing countries operating under Article 5 of the Montreal Protocol (Article 5 countries are given a grace period until 2010 to meet the production and import phaseout commitment). These American companies, however, must provide adequate assurance to EPA that these developing countries will not re-export these ozone depleters to another country.

The final phaseout rule will appear soon in the Federal Register.