EPA SNAP Rule arrives at last

Written on: August 1, 2015 by Doug Raymond


Finally, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released its final version of the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) rule dealing with Global Warming Potential (GWP) Compounds. The compound of note for the aerosol industry is HFC-134a, which has a high GWP. Over the years, the aerosol industry has relied on HFC-134a for a variety of essential uses due to the fact that it is a non-volatile organic compound (non-VOC) and is not flammable.

EPA had originally proposed a ban on HFC-134a as a propellant in aerosols as of Jan. 1, 2016. Industry submitted many comments to EPA on why this was not enough time to reformulate all the products using this compound, as well as some essential uses that would still need HFC-134a.

Below is a short summary of the major issues with the final version of the rule:

  • As of 1, 2016, HFC-125 cannot be used as an aerosol propellant.
  • HFC-134a, HFC-227a and blends of the two compounds cannot be used as an aerosol propellant as of one year from the publication of this rule in the Federal Register. The publication of the rule will likely happen by the end of July or early August of this year. Thus, this rule will become effective in July or August of 2016. This is about seven months longer than EPA had proposed. There are exceptions to the HFC-134a ban that will be listed later in this article.
  • HFC-227ea and blends of HFC-134a and HFC-227ea will be able to be used in Metered Dose Inhalers (MDIs) approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
  • HFC-134a will be allowed to be used in the following products until 1, 2018:
    • Products that require Federal government review for reformulation such as pesticides, military or space agency specifications or FDA approval.
    • Products for smoke detector functionality testing.
  • As mentioned earlier, the exceptions to the ban HFC-134a will allow the following specific uses of this compound:
    • Cleaning products for removal of grease, flux and other soils from electrical equipment or electronics.
    • Refrigerant flushes.
    • Products for sensitivity testing of smoke detectors.
    • Products containing corrosion preventative compounds used in maintenance of aircraft, electrical equipment, electronics or military equipment.
    • Duster products specifically for removal of dust from photographic negatives, semi conductor chips and specimens under electron microscopes or for use on energized electrical equipment.
    • Adhesives and sealants in large canisters.
    • Lubricants and freeze sprays for electrical equipment or electronics.
    • Products for aircraft maintenance.
    • Pesticide products for use near electrical wires or in aircraft, in total release insecticide foggers, or in certified organic pesticides for which EPA has specifically disallowed all other lower GWP Propellants.
    • Mold release products and mold cleaner products.
    • Lubricants and cleaners for spinnerets for synthetic fabrics.
    • Products for document preservation sprays.
    • MDIs approved by the FDA for medical purposes.
    • Products for wound care sprays.
    • Topical coolant sprays for pain relief.
    • Products for removing bandage adhesive from skin.

As you can see, there are numerous essential applications for which EPA has granted the continued use of HFC-134a. Several of these uses were added to the EPA rule due to a lot of hard work by numerous companies to preserve the use of HFC-134a in these important products.

Unfortunately, industry was not successful in preserving the use of HFC-134a in some products, most notably:

  • Air horns for marine use.
  • Tire inflators.
  • Silly String products.

Even though several companies made very good arguments to try and preserve the use of HFC-134a in the above products, EPA did not grant a use exemption. Thus, in July or August of 2016, HFC-134a will not be used in those products any more.

However, EPA is allowing all products made before the effective date to have an unlimited sell-through. This is good news and means any product made before the effective date can be sold without having to worry about a sell-through date.

Industry worked cooperatively with each other and the agency on this rule. Everyone tried to develop the best rule we could. While we did not get everything we asked for, EPA did grant some of our requests. Now, we have to ensure that the work the California Air resources Board (CARB) is doing on the Short Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCP) does not interfere with the SNAP rule. The current essential uses need to be maintained.

CARB Survey
On July 1, CARB staff conducted a webinar on the 2014 Consumer & Commercial Products Survey. CARB released instructions for using the new Consumer Products Reporting Tool (CPRT). CPRT instructions and webinar slides can be found at http://www.arb.ca.gov/consprod/regact/2014surv/2014main.htm.

The deadline for 2014 data is Nov. 1, 2015 and another webinar is scheduled for Sept. 16, 2015. More to come on this issue!