California man first in US charged with smuggling greenhouse gases

HFCs are potent greenhouse gases commonly found in refrigerators and air conditioners

A California man has become the first person in the United States charged with illegally smuggling greenhouse gases into the country, officials said Monday.

Michael Hart of San Diego was arrested under the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020, which prohibits the importation of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) without proper permits from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

HFCs are potent greenhouse gases commonly found in refrigerators and air conditioners, building insulation, fire extinguishing systems, and aerosols. They can be hundreds to thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere, exacerbating the climate crisis.

According to the Department of Justice, Hart purchased refrigerants in Mexico and smuggled them into the United States in his vehicle, hidden under a tarp and tools.

He then posted the items for sale on OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace and other sites, selling them on for a profit.

“The illegal smuggling of hydrofluorocarbons … undermines international efforts to combat climate change under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol,” said David Uhlmann of the EPA, referring to an agreement the United States, along with most countries, has signed.

It calls to phase out the super pollutants by 80-85 percent by 2047.

The indictment also alleges Hart imported HCFC 22, an ozone-depleting substance regulated under the Clean Air Act. Mexico as a developing country has a longer timetable for phasing out such pollutants than the United States as a developed country.


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