Release 09-109
December 9, 2009

    Stanley Young
cell 916-956-9409

California rule clamps down on leaks of potent greenhouse gases from large refrigeration systems
Air Resources Board unanimously votes to adopt nation-leading measure

SACRAMENTO-The California Air Resources Board today adopted the nation's first comprehensive regulation to reduce potent greenhouse gases from commercial and industrial refrigeration systems.

The rule will reduce greenhouse gas emissions of 8.1 million metric tons of CO2e in 2020. That is equivalent to removing about 1.4 million cars from the road for a year.

"This common-sense measure will clamp down and reduce the largest source of highly potent greenhouse gases," said ARB Chairman Mary D. Nichols. "The rule creates a level playing field by requiring that all businesses use best management practices to monitor and repair refrigerant leaks."

Gases used as refrigerants trap heat in the atmosphere at rates thousands of times that of carbon dioxide. A leak of only 1.5 pounds of the most commonly-used refrigerant (referred to as R-22) is the equivalent of releasing a metric ton of carbon dioxide (CO2e). The rule addresses the single largest source in the state of high-potency greenhouse gases by requiring refrigerant leak inspection and repair of large commercial and industrial refrigeration systems.

The regulations apply only to large commercial and industrial systems that use more than 50 pounds of refrigerant for a single unit, roughly the equivalent of the refrigerant found in 100 household refrigerators. This means the rule applies primarily to supermarkets, food and beverage processors, cold storage warehouses, and industrial cooling processes. It does not apply to most bars, restaurants, liquor stores, and office buildings. The rule also does not apply to systems that use ammonia or carbon dioxide as the refrigerant.

Development of the regulation took almost two years and included five technical workgroup meetings, seven public workshops, technician and service contractor surveys, and site visits. ARB staff also worked with facility owners, refrigerant manufacturers and several trade associations to develop the regulation.

Beginning in 2011, the rule will require leak inspection, repairs, required service practices and record keeping. Leak inspections will vary from continuous leak monitoring to quarterly or annual leak inspections, depending on the type and size of refrigeration systems.

Starting in 2012, registration, reporting and fee requirements will be phased in for facilities in the following three categories:

Fees collected will be used to support outreach, training, enforcement and administration while working closely with our local air districts.

Though costs will vary from facility-to-facility, the leak detection, monitoring and repair requirements of the rule are expected to produce an average savings of roughly two dollars a metric ton for each ton of the equivalent of CO2 reduced. That is because identifying and repairing leaks promptly reduces the need to buy costly refrigerant to refill the system.

The rule is part of a range of measures being developed by ARB under AB 32, the state's pioneering climate change law signed by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2006.

In 2008 California adopted a comprehensive roadmap, known as the Scoping Plan to achieve AB 32's goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2020. Only two other scoping plan measures adopted to date exceed the refrigerant rule's expected greenhouse gas reductions: The Pavley vehicle emissions standards (31.7 million metric tons of CO2e) and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (15 million metric tons of CO2e).

The Air Resources Board is a department of the California Environmental Protection Agency. ARB's mission is to promote and protect public health, welfare, and ecological resources through effective reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering effects on the economy. The ARB oversees all air pollution control efforts in California to attain and maintain health based air quality standards.