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CFC venting outlawed July 1.

As part of the Clean Air Act of 1990, owners of buildings with central air conditioning, freezers and refrigeration equipment or other systems that use coolants can be fined or sent to jail if the substances are vented after July 1.

The act says that no one may intentionally vent into the air these chlorofluorocarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons, commonly known as CFCs and HCFCs.

The HCFCs and safer HCFs that are currently available do not chill as well, however, and costly retrofit conversions must be made to refrigeration equipment in order to use them. Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not yet promulgated draft regulations to enforce the Clean Air Act's requirements. Currently, fines for venting range up to $25,000 per day per incident and a year in jail.

James C. Dinegar, vice president of government affairs for the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International, is hopeful the EPA will put out draft regulations by July 1 but is not counting on it.

The problem, Dinegar said, is that people are being asked to comply with laws and have equipment serviced without any guidance. "The regulations aren't out yet as to who is certified, the criteria enabling someone to be certified, and the technical specifics on the venting," he explained. "You're being held accountable for doing something to a certain standard and they haven't established that standard."

An ongoing joint industry task force on the environment, made up of BOMA of New York and the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) and chaired by Carl Borsari, is putting out a bulletin this week on the CFC issue. The mailing will include rules for building employees and building contractors to sign stating they will comply with Clean Air Act standards. The rules were formulated by the Edward S. Gordon Company with Kenneth M. Block, a partner with LePatner, Block, Pawa, & Rivelis and a member of the task force.

What Goes Up Hurts Ozone

When the cool air system in a building is recharged -- such as when it runs out of coolant due to leaks or the system needs maintenance -- about 20 percent of the substance is vented into the atmosphere. When these CFCs are vented, chlorine vapors rise and damage the ozone layer which is being irreparably harmed and causing global warming.

Bruce Hampson, general manager of the Trane Company in New York, said any building that uses a chilled water air conditioning system most likely uses CFCs. Smaller buildings -- under the 150,000-square-foot range -- may have systems that already use the bridge replacements, known as HCFCs, he said. "The concern for that building owner is to ensure the machine is as tight as possible," Hampson said, so there are no leaks.

Hampson said HCFCs will be available for many more years so there is a much greater problem for owners of large air conditioning systems because the CFCs will no longer be manufactured after Dec. 31, 1995. Production of all the

HCFCs is scheduled to end by 2030, although that timing could be accelerated by the Bush administration and is being accelerated by manufacturers such as DuPont.

Because a large chiller can be used for 25 to 40 years, the problem is becoming immediate for owners of buildings that were constructed after the 1940's and who are starting to look at replacing the systems. Mark J. Moss, vice president for government affairs of REBNY, said these older buildings need equipment that will not be outmoded in five years.

Bridge Replacements

The refrigeration industry has developed certain bridge replacements, called HCFCs -- such as the commonly used R-22 -- to be used until more environmentally friendly and cost effective components, known as HFCs, can be developed. Only one HFC -- known as HFC 134a -- is in use as an alternative and that is scheduled to be phased out in 2015. Only one manufacturer so far makes a large capacity chiller that uses it.

To use replacements, however, existing equipment must be retrofitted and could result in a loss of 5 percent to 15 percent or more of the building's cooling efficiency. "They just don't chill as well," explained Sid Harvey Industries' Marketing Director Mary Martin.

Building owners, meanwhile, are facing a July 1 "noventing" deadline and trying to decide what to do. John Belt CPM, president of the 58-64 40th Street Corp., and president of the BOMA New York, said "As a building owner, hang loose, and keep reading the changes as they come upon us."

"At the very least, if you're sitting there with a big chiller, you should make a decision to retrofit, replace or continue to use CFCs," said Louis A. Zacharilla, a spokesperson for Sid Harvey Industries Inc., a multi-branch national wholesaler of HVACR systems.

"There are costs involved with all of those options," Zacharilla added, citing the rising tax; the phase out of production making CFCs harder to get; the costs of retrofitting; and the fines. "From everything we see and read here it's going to pretty punitive," Zacharilla noted.

Those who continue to use CFCs will find they have to pay dearly for it. The current tax on the sale of CFCs is approximately $1.67 per pound and by 1999 will rise to around $4.90 per pound with, more increases expected by Congress. A typical office building could use anywhere from 2,700 to 90,000 pounds of coolant. Aside from the fines, a leaky system is also costly to maintain and keep filled.

Recycling

Hampson said what to do depends on age of machine and where it is located. An owner could decide to do nothing except to make the system as tight and leak free as possible, and to install the most modern efficient devices to keep the refrigerant clean and in the machine.

When CFCs are running they acquire pollutants and organic compounds that inhibit their performance. Hampson said recycling is simply a means of cleaning the refrigerant and owners should be recycling CFCs and HCFCs no matter what they decide to do in the long term.

The coolant can either by recycled on site or reclaimed by removing it from the system and sending it to places like DuPont or Sid Harvey's where it is refined to 99.7 percent of its original virgin condition. New York State has already set purity standards for reprocessed refrigerants.

Recycling on site, at a cost for equipment of $2,000 to $8,000, has some advantage for contractors. An owner may remove the compounds from one system and recycle it into another system only if the owner owns both systems, added Martin.

Sid Harvey's is sponsoring a Recycle It program and will reclaim and recycle any amount of the coolants, up to 500,000 pounds. Since there is no minimum, owners and contractors may make arrangements to have large amounts picked up or be advised how to legally and properly transport small cylinders of coolant.

Deborah Beck, executive vice president of REBNY, said in the near term, building owners should find they can continue to utilize existing equipment. "Anybody that has equipment in good working order and can have it recycled on site or have it installed would be well served," she said. "That is a known technology and can maintain the system as long as it is viable."

Retrofitting

A large CFC centrifugal chiller that has much of its life ahead and has been maintained, is a good candidate for a retrofit for the bridge substances, Martin said, but could cost $1,000 to $60,000.

Before making any decision, an owner should investigate removing the CFC and replacing it with an alternative refrigerant. "That is a complex process," Hampson warned, adding that the owner must be in touch with the unit manufacturer to assess the result of the conversion. Trane will do a conversion "turn-key" or sell the parts to the authorized contractor.

Since Trane maintains the performance characteristics of every machine it has ever sold, it is able to model the machine and determine what will happen if CFC is replaced with an alternative, as well as what modifications can be made optimize the end result.

What's Coming

The new EPA regulations will also regulate the use of refrigerant and the licensing of service personnel by building size. "Not everyone can service it or evacuate it," Martin said. "They will hold the serviceman libel." ESG is insisting its contractors and their personnel be certified once the formal rules are in place and is providing educational seminars for its building employees. The industry task force is recommending all owners do these same things.

Beck said owners should be certain the contractors who maintain the HVAC equipment are using state of the art equipment and using all necessary precautions. "But bear in mind it is the contractor that has the liability, unless the owners maintain the equipment themselves," she added.

Block said owners should ensure they, their employees, tenants and any contractors which come into the building honor the prohibition against venting of the CFCs and HCFCs, recycle and reclaim the material and conduct leak inspections.

Dinegar said building contractors who are being asked to sign the joint task force/Gordon document may not sign it because they do not know yet what they are signing to. "There's the frustration," he noted. "How much weight it will carry until the final rules come out is anyone's guess."
COPYRIGHT 1992 Hagedorn Publication
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Title Annotation:building owners fined for venting of air conditioning systems after July 1, 1992 according to regulations imposed by Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990
Author:Weiss, Lois
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Jun 17, 1992
Words:1566
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