On November 30, 2023, the Washington State Department of Ecology took a significant step in environmental regulation by adopting amendments to two key chapters: Chapter 173-443 WAC, which deals with Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and Chapter 173-455 WAC, concerning the Air Quality Fee Rule. This initiative is in line with the Hydrofluorocarbons – Emissions Reduction law (Chapter 70A.60 RCW) enacted in 2021, directing the Department of Ecology to establish a refrigerant management program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from large stationary refrigeration and commercial air conditioning systems in Washington.
These amendments introduce new global warming potential (GWP) thresholds for HFCs used in new stationary refrigeration and air conditioning equipment, automotive air conditioner recharge cans, and certain consumer aerosol products. A comprehensive refrigerant management program is also part of the amendments, encompassing registration, leak inspection, repair, recordkeeping, and reporting for large systems.
Service technicians are now required to follow specific practices, and there are updated labeling and disclosure requirements for products. Manufacturers face new labeling and recordkeeping obligations. The amendments also update Chapter 173-443 WAC to reflect these legal changes, including a revised chapter title to “Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and Other Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases.”
Additionally, a new section in Chapter 173-455 WAC establishes fees and a fee update process to support the refrigerant management program. These rules impact manufacturers, owners of large commercial refrigeration and air conditioning systems, service technicians, and refrigerant wholesalers, distributors, and reclaimers. They are also relevant to new equipment purchasers and those concerned about climate change.
Set to become effective on December 31, 2023, these rules can be appealed under the Administrative Procedure Act (Chapter 34.05 RCW), as detailed in RCW 34.05.330.