Green collar crime: Justice Department makes first ‘greenhouse gas’ felony arrest for smuggling

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Michael Hart of San Diego was arrested March 4 and charged with smuggling greenhouse gases into the United States from Mexico and selling them for profit. The U.S. District Attorney said this is a violation of regulations meant to curb the use of greenhouse gases and slow climate change. She said this was the first instance of such an arrest, but won’t be the last.

Hart, 58, violated the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020, which prohibits the importation of hydrofluorocarbons, commonly used as refrigerants, without specific permits allowances by the Environmental Protection Agency. He is accused of hiding the tanks of coolants under tools and a tarp in his truck and not declaring them at the border.

Hart posted the refrigerants for sale on OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace, and other sites, and sold them. In addition to greenhouse gases, the indictment alleges Hart imported HCFC 22, an ozone-depleting substance regulated under the Clean Air Act.

“This office is at the forefront of environmental prosecutions, and today is a significant milestone for our country,” said U.S. Attorney Tara McGrath in San Diego. “This is the first time the Department of Justice is prosecuting someone for illegally importing greenhouse gases, and it will not be the last. We are using every means possible to protect our planet from the harm caused by toxic pollutants, including bringing criminal charges.”

“The illegal smuggling of hydrofluorocarbons, a highly potent greenhouse gas, undermines international efforts to combat climate change under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol,” said David M. Uhlmann, EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Anyone who seeks to profit from illegal actions that worsen climate change must be held accountable. This arrest highlights the significance of EPA’s climate enforcement initiative and our efforts to prevent refrigerants that are climate super pollutants from illegally entering the United States.”

Hart made his first appearance in federal court this week and pled not guilty. His next hearing is before U.S. District Judge Jeffrey T. Miller for motion hearing/trial setting on March 25, at 11 a.m.

The EPA, HFCs are potent greenhouse gases that cause climate change and are used in applications such as refrigeration, air-conditioning, building insulation, fire extinguishing systems, and aerosols.

“The use of HFCs has been rapidly increasing worldwide due to the global phaseout of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) and increased demand for refrigeration and air conditioning,” the government said.

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is a treaty adopted in 1987 and ratified by virtually every country, the federal government said. The Montreal Protocol required the gradual phase out of ozone depleting substances, with different timetables for developed countries like the United States, and developing countries like Mexico.

In the United States, the Montreal Protocol was implemented in 1990 by an addition to the Clean Air Act, which covers Stratospheric Ozone Protection.

That addition identified HCFC 22 as a regulated ozone depleting substance. Before 2020, EPA regulations that governed ozone-depleting substances made it illegal for anyone to import a regulated ozone-depleting substance in an amount exceeding that individual’s consumption allowance, subject to certain exceptions. On January 1, 2020, consumption allowances for HCFC 22 were eliminated and it became illegal to import HCFC 22 for any purpose other than for use in a process resulting in their transformation or their destruction, the U.S. Attorney said.

Read more about the Montreal Protocol and Kigali Amendment at the United Nations website.

The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol is another international agreement designed to phase down the production and consumption of greenhouse gases such as HFCs, which are commonly used alternatives to ozone-depleting substances and are already controlled under the Montreal Protocol.

The Kigali Amendment seeks to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs by 80 to 85 percent by 2047. The AIM Act authorized the EPA to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs in a stepwise manner. As part of the AIM Act, Congress added an additional list of regulated substances, which include HFC 32, HFC-125, HFC-134, HFC-134a, HFC 143 and HFC 143a. Refrigerants marketed as HFC 404a, 407a, 407c and 410a contain these regulated substances. The listed HFCs are some of the most commonly used HFCs and all are saturated, meaning they have only a single bond between their atoms and therefore have longer atmospheric lifetimes.

Beginning on January 1, 2022, EPA regulations prohibit any person from importing bulk regulated HFCs, except by expending, at the time of import, a consumption or application-specific allowance issued by the EPA. No person may sell or distribute, or offer for sale or distribution, any regulated HFC that was imported illegally.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Older refrigerators and coolers designed to operate on Freon must take their place in the landfill. Too bad the new ones don’t work very well. More stuff for the landfill.

  2. I feel like the entire country is now so much safer for not having this gas released within it. /end sarcasm

  3. “He is accused of hiding the tanks of coolants under tools and a tarp in his truck and not declaring them at the border.” He should’ve used “Mike’s Nature Trick”.

  4. Carbon Dioxide is now considered a life threatening greenhouse gas. Yet, the Biden administration is importing millions of illegal migrants who all breath out Carbon Dioxide. How many metric tons of Carbon Dioxide is expelled daily from 10M people spread throughout the country? We need more arrests.

  5. Nothing surprises us about the greenie elites, this dreadfully stupid White House, and government attorneys. I expect that importing barred owls from Canada to then have them killing and eating spotted owls would also be prosecuted even though barred owls are being pushed into the Douglas fir region all by themselves. Common sense kneels before the woke and the drag queens.

    Two generations of adults have now reached the workforce, at least the age when they might be expected to support themselves, without having worked much, if at all. So supervisors and small business owners had no opportunity to tell them that no matter what their mothers may have told them the real world requires them to produce at least $1.10 in value for every dollar they are paid. These two generations borrowed money to go to college, playing video games in dorm rooms instead of working the jobs of youth (jobs like the characters played by Jimmie Stewart and Mikey Rooney in the black & white movies). Now those two generations cannot distinguish between a job in production, a job in government, and no job at all. And we chase people who commit imaginary crimes. Really quite sad.

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