Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Jun 27 2018

EPA reversed rule restricting highly potent greenhouse gases with up to 1,000 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide

OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today joined 10 other Attorneys General in challenging the Environmental Protection Agency for improperly reversing a rule that prohibited the use of a powerful type of greenhouse gas. This is Ferguson’s 10th lawsuit against the Trump Administration EPA, many over actions undermining efforts to combat global warming.

Hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, are used in air conditioning, refrigeration, aerosols and fire retardants. Their use is rapidly growing as an alternative to substances that deplete the ozone layer. However, their global warming potential is 300 to 1,000 times greater than carbon dioxide.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, argues that the decision to effectively rescind the rule violates the Clean Air Act.

“The Trump EPA seems intent on taking every opportunity to undermine efforts to fight climate change,” Ferguson said. “It’s irresponsible, dangerous, and contrary to the purpose of the EPA.”

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to maintain lists of safe and prohibited substitutes for ozone-depleting chemicals. The EPA originally listed HFCs as safe substitutes. In 2015, the EPA issued a rule listing HFCs as “unacceptable” substitutes because of their high global warming potential.

Two major manufacturers of HFCs, Mexichem Fluor and Arkema, sued the EPA over the 2015 rule. In that case, the court held that the EPA lacks legal authority to require a product manufacturer that has already replaced an ozone-depleting chemical with HFCs to switch to a safer alternative.

In April 2018, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt went beyond the Mexichem court ruling and issued “guidance” reversing the 2015 rule in its entirety. This removes the HFC restriction for all entities, not just for product manufacturers that currently use HFCs.

The states contend the EPA’s “guidance” effectively repealed the rule without the required notice or comment period. The Clean Air Act requires notice and comment prior to adopting or repealing a rule.

Restricting HFCs would reduce greenhouse gas emissions as much as 101 million metric tons by 2030.

Washington is joined in the lawsuit by New York, California, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, the District of Columbia and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Assistant Attorney General Kay Shirey is the lead attorney for the State of Washington.

This is Ferguson’s 28th lawsuit against the Trump Administration.

Ferguson has not lost a case brought against the Trump Administration. The Attorney General’s Office prevailed in all six cases against the Trump Administration that are completed and there are no more appeals. Of those six cases, five of them relate to the environment. That does not include three additional successful outcomes that have been or could be appealed, including blocking President Trump’s ban on transgender individuals serving in the military and his attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.


The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.


Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; brionna.aho@atg.wa.gov