American ShipperTrade and Compliance

Updated import rules for ozone-damaging chemicals proposed

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to update several commercial standards for hydrochlorofluorocarbons, including import regulations.

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to update standards for hydrochlorofluorocarbons, including import requirements.

EPA announced that its proposed updates include requiring electronic reporting for importers and exporters; improving the process for petitioning to import used substances for reuse; creating a certification process for importing used and virgin — or newly produced — substances for destruction; and restricting the sale of known illegally imported substances.

Regarding electronic reporting, EPA is proposing to require that importers and exporters use its electronic Central Data Exchange (CDX) 30 days after the effective date of any final rule. It’s unclear when any final rule will be posted.

The agency plans to provide instructions on how to register in CDX and electronically submit information. CDX serves as the EPA’s main mechanism for receiving and exchanging information reported via the internet.

The agency expects additional petitions for imports of virgin material as the global phaseout of hydrochlorofluorocarbons continues and because the U.S. has a greater capacity for destruction, EPA said.

Existing regulations don’t provide a mechanism to preapprove the import of virgin material for destruction, resulting in delays at the port of entry while EPA verifies the shipment, EPA said.

Specific changes the EPA is proposing for the import petition process include allowing, under certain circumstances, submission of an official letter from the appropriate government agency in the country the material is stored attesting that a Class I substance is “used” in lieu of detailed equipment-level source information.

EPA is not proposing similar changes for Class II ODS imports.

In the U.S., “Class I” ODS refers to substances subject to the first round of phaseout targets under the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. Class II substances are subject to a different phaseout schedule.

“The EPA has reviewed the import petition process and is proposing amendments to improve data collection,” the proposed rule says. “Such changes would require collection of additional information when additional verification is needed to determine whether the material has been previously used and remove data elements that are currently collected but that are no longer needed.”

Further, EPA is proposing a new petition process for imports of used and virgin ODS for destruction, called a Certification of Intent to Import ODS for Destruction, the proposed rule says.

Under the process, the importer would submit the certification at least 30 working days before the shipment’s departure from the foreign port. After review, EPA either would send a non-objection notice or an objection notice, which would be authorized in cases such as a petition including insufficient, false or misleading information, as is current policy.

As for restrictions on the sale of known illegally imported substances, the proposed rule would add a regulation expressly prohibiting the sale, distribution or offer for sale or distribution of any Class I or Class II substance that the seller knows, or had reason to know, had been imported into the U.S. in violation of import regulations.

The proposal could allow the EPA to pursue investigations where distributors or other sellers of chlorofluorocarbons attempt to sell virgin chlorofluorocarbons in the domestic market knowing they were imported into the U.S. after the 1996 phaseout of chlorofluorocarbons, without qualifying for any exemption from the consumption phaseout, the proposed rule says.

Actions taken against such distributors would address their violations and allow the agency to gather information necessary to identify the smuggler who illegally imported the material and to pursue compliance and enforcement action against them under existing authorities, which could help deter illegal imports, EPA said.

EPA will accept comments on the proposed rule through September 28.

Brian Bradley

Based in Washington, D.C., Brian covers international trade policy for American Shipper and FreightWaves. In the past, he covered nuclear defense, environmental cleanup, crime, sports, and trade at various industry and local publications.

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