OREANDA-NEWS. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday proposed new steps to curb emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are potent greenhouse gases.

The agency proposed updating and extending requirements for handling refrigerants, applying the rules to ozone-depleting and HFC refrigerants. The agency estimates the proposal would cut HFC emissions by 7mn metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) in 2025.

EPA and the US Department of Energy also announced commitments by more than a dozen companies to reduce the use and emissions of HFCs. Combined with previous actions and regulations, the White House says the efforts will cut HFC emissions by more than 1bn t CO2e through 2025.

HFCs have as much as 10,000 times the global warming potential of CO2. The compounds are used in refrigeration and air conditioning, but in many cases alternatives for the same applications exist that have smaller potential global warming impacts.

EPA also said it will begin a rulemaking in 2016 under its Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program that would prohibit the use of certain high global warming potential HFCs for which there are safer alternatives available. EPA under the SNAP rulemaking would also approve new HFC alternatives.

EPA announced the steps at a White House roundtable on HFCs with leaders from other government agencies and the private sector.

"The powerful combination of EPA's regulatory actions and innovations emerging from the private sector have put our country on track to significantly cut HFC use and deliver on the goals of the president's Climate Action Plan," EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said.

The Department of Defense said at the meeting it would take new actions to curb HFCs, including installing new refrigeration systems at three US commissaries.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, which this month petitioned EPA to de-list certain HFC uses, praised the new steps.

"The US is leading in the transition away from HFCs - toward more cooling with less warming," NRDC director of climate and clean air programs David Doniger said.

EPA will take comments on the proposed rule for 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register and plans to finalize the rule in 2016.