New Jersey Climate Bill Expands State Reporting Requirements for HVAC/R Owners and Operators
New Jersey Cares About All Greenhouse Gases, Not Just Carbon Dioxide
When people think of greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide is the first that comes to mind. But few consider the refrigerant in their car’s air conditioner, the HVAC unit on their house, or the refrigerator in the kitchen. All of these appliances contain hydrofluorocarbon-based refrigerants.
HFC Refrigerants’ Impact On Emissions of Greenhouse Gases
Hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants or HFCs are a group of greenhouse gases commonly used for cooling. Pound for pound these are considered super air pollutants that trap thousands of times more heat than carbon dioxide (CO2) at sea level. As an example, R-404A is equivalent to 3,922 lbs of CO2 per LB, making HFC refrigerants the fastest-growing class of greenhouse gases on the planet. HFC refrigerants alone are credited with causing an estimated 0.5° C of warming in the global atmosphere.
15 Days to Get In Compliance with NJ HFC Law
In 15 days, a rule supporting legislation put in place 15 years ago requires that you have your sites registered in a new State Portal. September 19, 2022, was the 90th day from the signing into law of the original regulation, requiring any entity in the State with a cooling system containing 50 or more pounds of refrigerant to register with the “New” NJ State portal, but if you are using the existing“old” registration process that is still in place also. There are two registrations, a new one and an old one, and if you are wondering, yes, both registrations affect HVAC/R owners and operators.
Key Milestone Dates for New Jersey Operators
Managing HFC refrigerants in New Jersey may have just become more complex, but these changes did not happen overnight, although you only have 14 nights left to comply with this new milestone. The State of NJ DEP requires that you go into the new portal and register any location that has any system that contains 50 or more pounds of refrigerant. Then there are additional milestones over the next 6 months:(submitting refrigerant use data- will be a future discussion).
- November 1, 2022 – register all sites with refrigeration equipment
- January 1, 2023 – enter the asset details into the registration portal
- April 1, 2023 – Enter in key refrigerant consumption data for the calendar year 2022 related to the site and the assets
New Jersey Looks To Update Its Carbon Dioxide Balance Sheet
Back on April 10, 2019, the NJ Clean Air Council (CAC or the council) held a hearing to evaluate the latest information on the emissions of greenhouse gases and how these emissions were being managed. CAC is an advisory body to the Commissioner of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and it is their role to host public hearings to provide recommendations to the Commissioner to help better understand the extent of emissions of certain global warming pollutants in the State of New Jersey.
“With respect to fluorinated gases, there is no direct data from in-state facilities”
— Francis Steitz Director Division of Air Quality, DEP
NJ Admits Its Data Is Inadequate For Accurate Estimation of Emissions of Greenhouse Gases
Projections for HFC refrigerant emission contribution to overall greenhouse gases was estimated at the time to be 5% based on numbers from a 2018 report. But the State of NJ and the peer group they assembled acknowledged that the data from export and import records and the EPAs database was inadequate to accurately determine and account for emissions which made the state’s carbon dioxide balance sheet inaccurate. The Council Invited 5 parties to the meeting.
- US Climate Alliance – a group of States that have allied to share the cost of developing environmental policies. California, Washington and Vermont are all members as well.
- NRDC – an Environmental Advocacy group
- AHRI – The policy group representing manufacturers of chemicals and refrigeration equipment in the HVAC/R industry
- The Chemistry Council of NJ
- The Chemours Company – a manufacturer of refrigerants and formerly known as DuPont
Recommendations for 2050 Goals
The groups provided the state with feedback on refrigerants’ impact on climate change. The NJ DEP decided to take a holistic approach to climate change by evaluating the efforts that would be necessary to address both mitigation and resilience.
New Jersey is taking some steps to mitigate climate change, like rejoining RGGI and participating in the Transportation Climate Initiative. But the Department is aware that it these steps are not enough to reach the Global Warming Response Act’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 2006 levels by 2050.
The Clean Air Council’s recommendations, which includes the five groups above, were intended to identify and prioritize additional actions the Department could take to meet the 2050 emissions limit of greenhouse gases.
Process Began With New Jersey’s Global Warming Response Act
Keep in mind that this all begins in 2007 with the Global Warming Response Act (GWRA), N.J.S.A. 26:2, a state action that very few people know anything about.
Presently most companies comply with the NJ state registration process as it relates to their HVAC/R and refrigeration equipment. That regulation, known as The Boiler, Pressure Vessel and Refrigeration Act, N.J.S.A. 34:7, has a registration process that requires registrants to pay an application fee and register their HVAC/R appliances every two years if certain conditions are met. This makes three programs that impact owners of HVAC/R and equipment that contains refrigerant:
- The Global Warming Response Act (GWRA), N.J.S.A. 26:2 – The New Jersey Global Warming Response Act of 2007 (GWRA), N.J.S.A 26:2C-37 establishes two GHG limits, one for 2020 and another for 2050. The GWRA requires two recommendation reports, one for each limit. The GWRA 2050 target requires New Jersey to reduce GHG emissions by 80 percent from 2006 levels by 2050.
- The Boiler, Pressure Vessel and Refrigeration Act, N.J.S.A. 34:7 – This bureau originates in 1913 to promote greater safety to life and property through the uniformity of construction, installation, operation, inspection, repair, maintenance, and inspection of boilers and pressure vessels.
- NEW! N.J.A.C. 7:27-8 Permits and Certificates for Minor Facilities (and Major Facilities without an Operating Permit) N.J.A.C. 7:27-18 Control and Prohibition of Air Pollution from New or Altered Sources Affecting Ambient Air Quality (Emission Offset Rules)
New Jersey’s Core Objectives
If this is all a little confusing, you’re not alone. At the core of each regulation is the responsibility to ensure that the state meets legislative obligations. Each of New Jersey’s regulations relates to:
- Environmental Stewardship and Clean Air
- Safety and health
- Data Accuracy
HVACR Industry Leads HFC Refrigerants Drawdown
The HVACR industry has long been supportive of international and national efforts to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases by phasing down the use of HFCs, including policies that promote environmental stewardship while meeting societal needs in an energy-efficient, safe, and cost-effective manner.
Focus Changes to State-Level Efforts in 2017
However, in 2017 they switched gears and focused on supporting state-level efforts. By 2017, the industry had spent 13 years planning to transition to new refrigerants and advancing refrigeration equipment technology. Efforts are being disrupted at the federal level.
New Jersey Seeks Better Understanding of Emissions of Greenhouse Gases
There is a growing and effective regulatory framework in place to help reduce refrigerant emissions nationally. However, many of these rules had been rescinded or delayed since 2017, which lead to today’s significant uncertainty in the regulatory landscape. These delays affect businesses and the ability to track emissions of greenhouse gases in the U.S.
Given this uncertainty and inaction at the federal level, the State of NJ is seeking both a definitive understanding of HFC refrigerants impacts on their overall emissions of greenhouse gases and a solution to reducing overall emissions. But first, the state needs better data to understand the real scale of the impact. The 2019 Council meeting leads to the 2022 Greenhouse Gas Monitoring and Reporting regulation. These regulations aim to gather data so New Jersey can better understand its emissions of greenhouse gases.
At a high level, the regulation is simple, register your assets in two portals. But for those of us that work on the front lines and are responsible for the filing and registration process, the details matter.
New Jersey Adopts §7:27E to Meet HFC Refrigerants Emission Goals of the Global Warming Response Act (GWRA)
New Jersey is adopting §7:27E to support better data so that the State can develop an accurate carbon balance sheet. Every global agency responsible for reporting refrigerant emissions recognizes the significance refrigerants, known as SLCPs (Short-Lived Climate Pollutants) or fugitive emissions, have on carbon emissions. Still, no one, including New Jersey, has an accurate emissions rate, not even the companies responsible for managing the assets.
The previous standards of §34:7 registration and reporting of HVACR cooling equipment do not cover the emissions of greenhouse gases. §34:7 is focused on the safety of HAVCR equipment, while §7:27E is focused on keeping track of the emissions of HFC refrigerants. Under the provisions of §7:27E, managers of HVACR equipment in the state need to start registering and reporting equipment to get the carbon balance sheet under control.
§7:27E is the first step by New Jersey to improve the governance over greenhouse gases through monitoring and reporting initiatives as it applies to refrigerant-containing systems. This is part of New Jersey’s larger strategy to reduce the emissions of HFC refrigerants under the Global Warming Response Act (GWRA). These changes locations to be registered by November 1, 2022.
What you need to do for November 1: Register your sites in the NJ DEP Data Portal.
Information to register your sites:
- Name of facility, including a facility identifier, such as store number, if any;
- Facility mailing address, including street address, city, state, and zip code;
- The physical location of the facility, including street address, city, state, and zip code;
- Facility’s North American Industry Classification System Code number (NAICS Code), if applicable;
- New Jersey Employer Identification Number or Federal Tax Identification Number; and
- Responsible official’s name, title, phone number, and email address.
- Registration is not complete until the owner/operator of the facility pays the fee
- The initial registration or application fee is $400
- The registration is effective for five years
- Registration is every 5-years, but reporting will be annual
All other facilities shall submit to the Department, on or before April 1 of the calendar year after installation of the first refrigeration system, an initial report for the period from the first day of the first month following the installation or September 19, 2022, whichever is later, through December 31 of the year of installation. Subsequent reports shall be for a calendar year and submitted by April 1 for the preceding calendar year.
Next Milestone January 1 – April 1, 2023
Once the locations are registered and the application fees paid, then you move on to the next Milestone in the Data portal, The Facility Refrigeration System Report shall include the following information for each refrigeration system at the facility:
- Facility Identification Number;
- Facility contact person’s name, title, phone number, and email address;
- Refrigeration system identification number;
- Refrigeration system installation date;
- Equipment type;
- Equipment manufacturer;
- Equipment model or description;
- Equipment model year;
- The serial number(s) of the equipment or component, present and accessible. When the equipment or component is part of an assembly without a serial number, does not have an individual serial number, or is not accessible after assembly, the physical location of the equipment must be recorded in enough detail to permit identification;
- Temperature classification (low-temperature refrigeration system, medium-temperature refrigeration system, or any other temperature classification);
- The full charge of the refrigeration system (in pounds);
- Type of high-GWP refrigerant(s) used;
- The total weight in pounds of each type of high-GWP refrigerant that the facility purchased during the reporting period;
- The total weight in pounds of each type of high-GWP refrigerant that was charged into a refrigeration system during the reporting period but was not part of an initial refrigerant charge;
- The total weight in pounds of each type of high-GWP refrigerant that was recovered from a refrigeration system during the reporting period;
- The total weight in pounds of each type of high-GWP refrigerant that was stored in inventory at the facility, or stored at a different location for use by the facility, on the last day of the reporting period; and
- The total weight in pounds of each type of high-GWP refrigerant that was shipped by the facility during the reporting period to be reclaimed or destroyed.
The Newest HVAC/R NJ Law is not perfect. Unfortunately, it’s all manual, but maybe that will change. We are working with the agency responsible for the data to encourage them to allow data integration tools so products like Trakref can link safely and digitally so that you can reduce the number of keystrokes it takes to submit annual as well as registration data. We will keep you posted.
Owners and operators should be familiar with the Boiler, pressure vessel, refrigeration system program managed by the state of New Jersey, it has been in place for more than a decade.
Definitions matter, and nowhere is it truer than in the regulatory work world of the HVAC/R professional. A key definition to be aware is that of a refrigeration system, which the state defines as follows:
A system that is a combination of interconnected refrigerant-containing parts constituting one closed refrigerant circuit in which a refrigerant is circulated to extract heat. Refrigeration applications generally fall into five categories based on their design function. These refrigeration designs may be grouped as: domestic, commercial, industrial, marine and transportation, and air conditioning.
The growing burden to HVAC/R professions is the need to be both aware and responsible for laws governing and performance success of HVAC/R equipment. It is a challenging burden for HVAC/R professionals. The Boiler/Refrigeration inspection responsibilities are a common set of terms and conditions to HVAC/R techs. Still, we need to be reminded of the definitions and the triggers because they change, and we forget the nuanced way that regulators define things, so here is a reminder of what is required:
§34:7-25 All refrigeration systems using the following
- If you are using flammable or toxic refrigerants of over three tons of refrigerating capacity or requiring over six driving horsepower,
- All refrigeration systems using nonflammable and nontoxic refrigerants of over 18 tons of refrigerating capacity or requiring over 36 driving horsepower,
- Any relief devices set to over 15 pounds per square inch gage and used in a plant of any size or storage capacity
All of these systems need to be registered, shall be inspected annually by an inspector of the Mechanical Inspection Bureau or of an insurance company, as provided in subsection a. of R.S. 4:7-14; and the owner, lessee or operator shall comply with the recommendations of the inspector in conformity with the rules and legislation adopted by the Board of Boiler, Pressure Vessel and Refrigeration Rules of the Mechanical Inspection Bureau and approved by the commissioner. The fees for such inspection by an inspector of the Mechanical Inspection Bureau shall be as follows:
§34:7 Subsection 12:90-6.4 Inspection of Refrigeration Systems
(a) Refrigeration systems shall be inspected annually by an authorized State or insurance company inspector.
(b) It shall be the responsibility of the operator and the inspector to carefully check for indications of irregular, faulty or hazardous conditions.
(c) This inspection shall include the liquid receiver, condenser, all safety valves, and their discharge points, gauges, controls, and all other items which might be considered potentially critical.
(d) The inspector shall check the operator’s license and the State registration certificate and note these items in the inspection report.
(e) Damaged, altered, defaced, or lost certificates must be replaced by request through the Bureau of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Compliance. The replacement fee shall be $30.00.
§34:7 Subsection 12:90-6.5 Fee for field inspection
(a) An insurance company making an annual inspection of refrigeration systems shall pay a $80.00 fee to the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development for each system.
(b) The owner or user may request field inspection by the State.
(c) The fee for an annual field inspection by the State, based on the refrigeration capacity of the system, shall be made payable to the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development as follows:
- Over three and under 25 tons: $200.00
- Twenty-five tons and over, but less than 300 tons: $300.00
- 300 tons and over: $400.00
Companies face expansive compliance risks on many fronts, prompting maintenance departments to assume a minimal position when engaging with regulatory responsibilities. They undoubtedly face an uphill battle. Surging data needs and increasingly difficult-to-acquire compliance knowledge are challenging the resources of HVAC/R maintenance teams when refrigerant emissions are attracting national attention. With only about 250,000 service techs servicing a growing number of appliances, more than 100,000 service technician jobs remain unfilled in the US alone.
As a result, many businesses struggle to augment their teams to meet this challenging moment appropriately. Regulations like the new ones in NJ drain resources because the industry has assumed a defensive compliance posture by focusing on their most prominent challenge: equipment uptime.
Many in the Compliance community are not ready to meet the data needs of NJ law 7:27 because their resources are committed to keeping equipment running. At Trakref, our job is to keep organizations from collapsing under the weight of compliance and sustainability complexity.
We are refrigerant geeks with proven techniques to manage leaks in our HVAC/R and refrigerant management software.