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Possible Ban on R134a Refrigerant Sales?

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Years ago (2007) the California Air Resources Board (CARB) proposed banning the sale of R134a refrigerant to motorists.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) proposed a law that would have banned the sale of 134a refrigerant to consumers, including small 12 oz. cans as well as larger containers, potentially impacting the ability of California motorists to work on their own cars. If enacted, Californians would not have been able to purchase cans of auto refrigerant, leaving them with no option but to go to a repair facility for assistance.

A coalition called Stay Cool California fought the proposed law. The group said the ban targeted the very people who could least afford to have this service performed at a repair shop and placed an economic burden upwards of $167 million on fixed and lower income Californians.

"Instead of going after oil companies and utilities that emit millions of tons of greenhouse gases, the California Air Resources Board aimed its regulatory guns on consumers who prefer to work on their own cars," stated Tom Brown, a coalition spokesperson. "What costs consumers $10 today for a can of auto refrigerant, will cost them $150 or more tomorrow if CARB gets their way. That's just not fair for those people who cannot afford to take their car to a repair shop to have this very simple and necessary service done."

"We understand the need to reduce global warming in California and the members of our coalition are committed to doing this. But targeting low and fixed income Californians is no way to reduce global warming and is unfair and discriminatory. CARB should be going after sources where more substantial greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved at much lower cost to the citizens of California real greenhouse gas emissions reductions," Brown added.

At the time, the only other state to restrict or ban the sale of R134a was Wisconsin, who prohibits the sale of all refrigerants (R12, R22, R134a and all other alternative refrigerants)in containers of less than 25 pounds, (section 100.45 Wis. Stats. and Chapter ATCP 136 Wis. Adm. Code). R134a can be purchased in large bulk containers, but only by certified professional automotive technicians, or businesses registered with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection or the Wisconsin Department of Commerce for servicing air conditioning and refrigeration systems.

So what happened to the proposed ban?

California Decides Not to Ban R134a DIY Sales

In January 2009, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted NOT to ban the sale of R134a automotive refrigerant to do-it-yourselfers. Motorist could still buy R134a in retail auto parts stores for topping off and recharging their automotive air conditioning systems. However, CARB did adopt new regulations that pertain to the cans the refrigerant comes in, how the cans must be labeled, how cans are sold (a deposit is was now required), and requirements for consumer education regarding the environmental hazards of R134a.

The new California regulations required the following:

Starting January 1, 2011, all small cans (less than 2 lbs.) of R134a that are sold must meet CARB certification requirements (self-sealing top and proper labeling).

It is illegal to dispose of unused cans of R134a or cans that still contain residual refrigerant. Such cans must be returned to the retailer, distributor or manufacturer for proper disposal.

A deposit of $10 is required at the time of purchase. The deposit will be refunded when the customer returns the empty undamaged can within 90 days of purchase (with proof of purchase).

Stores selling R134a refrigerant must display a sign describing the environmental hazards of R134a, and provide consumer education brochures describing the proper use of R134a (such as no venting into the atmosphere). The signs and brochures must be printed in both English and Spanish.

Federal Rules Banning the Sale of R134a to Consumers

At the time, there were no federal rules regarding the sale of R134a to consumers. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did have regulations regarding the sale of R12 and other refrigerants to consumers.

Feds Change Rules Regarding the Sale of R12 and R134a

In December 2017, new rules were approved by the EPA. For any business selling or distributing refrigerants for use in motor vehicles, there were new restrictions for R-134a and other substitute refrigerants sold after Jan. 1, 2018. The rule established certification requirements for buying large containers of refrigerant and mandates that small containers include a self-sealing valve.

Under the new requirements, anyone purchasing a substitute refrigerant for R-12 in a greater-than-two-pound container must provide the seller with evidence that the technician has a Section 609 Technician Certification. If the purchaser is not certified and is buying the refrigerant on behalf of a service facility, the seller must be presented with evidence that one or more technicians at the facility are certified.

Refrigerant wholesalers must retain an invoice listing the name of the purchaser, date of sale and quantity purchased. The wholesaler is not required to confirm any technician certification, but EPA is recommending that wholesalers obtain a statement certifying that the cylinders are to be resold to certified technicians.

Individuals do not need to have certification in order to purchase small cans (under two pounds) of R-134a. However, all cans produced after Jan. 1, must come equipped with a self-sealing valve capable of preventing the container from venting refrigerant after it is removed from the charging valves. Despite this new requirement, retailers are permitted to sell off their existing inventory of small cans that do not have the self-sealing valves, as long as they were purchased prior to Dec. 31, 2017.

For details from the EPA website, Click Here.

Click Here for info about A/C R134a Retrofit Guide

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