Md. Environmental Chief Hails New EPA Climate Rule and State’s Role as a Pathfinder

    Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles on Thursday hailed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for new rules phasing out a class of super-polluting gases that are far more potent than carbon dioxide.

    He also noted that Maryland was a leader in the fight to draw down the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a fast-acting greenhouse gas used in refrigeration appliances, air conditioners, foam products and aerosol cans — and worked with federal officials to develop the new regulations.

    The EPA is issuing a rule designed to phase down HFC use by 85% over the next decade and a half. But other federal agencies, from the State Department to the Department of Homeland Security to the General Services Administration, are also being mobilized by the Biden administration to limit HFCs entry into the U.S. and their use here.

    The EPA estimates that the new rule would deliver emissions cuts equivalent to taking one out of every seven cars off the road by 2036, with eventual annual savings to the government of $16.4 billion.

    “Cutting these climate ‘super pollutants’ protects our environment, strengthens our economy, and demonstrates that America is back when it comes to leading the world in addressing climate change and curbing global warming in the years ahead,” EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said in a statement Thursday.

    Maryland’s own regulation phasing out use of HFCs went into effect at the beginning of this year. The phase-out of HFCs encourages use of widely available alternatives with lower emissions. Under the finalized regulations, HFC emissions in Maryland are estimated to be reduced every year by 25% through 2030.

    EPA has traditionally regulated use of HFCs under the federal Clean Air Act. However, two prior HFC rules issued by the EPA stalled due to legal challenges, so states began drafting their own initiatives. California was the first state to enact its own HFC regulations — but Maryland, New York and Connecticut followed suit and simultaneously announced their intention to do so three years ago.

    “EPA’s climate rule fully supports the early and bold action of Maryland and several other states to phase out one of the planet’s most dangerous greenhouse gases, while growing a cleaner and safer economy,” Grumbles said in an email to Maryland Matters. “The timely federal rule reflects extensive input from Maryland Department of the Environment and broadens the impact of our work nationally and internationally.”

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    Josh Kurtz
    Founding Editor Josh Kurtz is a veteran chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He was an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, for eight years, and for eight years was the editor of E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill. For 6 1/2 years Kurtz wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz regularly gives speeches and appears on TV and radio shows to discuss Maryland politics.