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The Washington Department of Ecology has adopted regulations which will eventually ban in-state sales of air conditioners and commercial refrigeration units containing hydrofluorocarbons – powerful chemical compounds that scientists have linked to global warming. The agency has also established a new “refrigerant management program” that takes effect January 1, 2023 for owners or operators of larger stationary refrigeration and air conditioning systems, such as grocery stores, warehouses, commercial buildings, and apartment complexes with temperature-controlled environments. Along with fees, they must register with Ecology and provide data on leak inspections and other recordkeeping.

Ecology has enacted a registration and fee schedule for buildings and facilities based on a system’s refrigerant “charge size.” Systems with more than 1,500 pounds of refrigerant are considered large, subject to periodic leak detection requirements and repairs within 45 days and must pay an initial $150 registration fee beginning January 1, 2023 followed by an annual $370 fee.

Medium systems, between 200 and 1,499 pounds of refrigerant, would pay a $170 annual fee starting in January 2026. Program violations can be subject to civil penalties up to $10,000 per day and gross misdemeanor criminal offenses, although non-compliance advisories and warnings are typically issued first. Based on public comments received on its draft rules, Ecology clarified that only one fee will be assessed on a facility with multiple cooling systems based on its equipment with the largest refrigerant charge size. Two manufacturers, Trane Technologies, and Honeywell, along with the Washington Food Industry Association and the Association of Washington Business, were among 10 commenters asking for Ecology to delay its rulemaking until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finishes a similar process.

Two state lawmakers, Republican Senators Shelly Short and Matt Boehnke, claimed in an August 21, 2023 letter to Ecology that the proposed regulations would reduce business production in Washington by $619 million, eliminate 3,000 jobs, and impose costs exceeding $6,000 per employee on small businesses. They cited the state’s Regulatory Fairness Act that directs agencies to reduce costs imposed by such rules on small businesses. For your benefit, please review the attached briefing on the new rule change with your service provider to better understand implications to your potato storage facilities and potential impacts on food security in Washington State.



Friday, 15 December 2023