Compliance Alert: COVID-19 and Business Continuity at Trakref
Compliance Alert: HVAC/R Regulatory Requirements Remain Firmly in Place
Everything in the world has changed in only a few short months. Only a few weeks ago we were all planning our spring maintenance and getting ready to finish up the filings for GreenChill and submitting reports to EPA for Chronically leaky systems. Additionally, those of us living or operating a business in California were just wrapping up the 2019 filing for Air Resource Board.Fast forward to March 20th and now we are quarantined and wondering when our chaotic, busy commute driven world will return to normal. During times like this, it is not uncommon to think that regulations or requirements might be relaxed. It is important to make it very clear: Per the regulation, they have no authority, by law, to instruct any owner or operator of any facility to do anything different than what the regulation instructs them to do. Let’s take leak inspections as an example. In California, rule 95385 is a requirement that leak inspections take place at a set interval. This is known as a regulation and the authority to draft this regulation was given to the Air Resource Board, by the State Law commonly known as The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, or Assembly Bill (AB) 32, which is a California State Law that fights global warming by establishing a comprehensive program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from all sources throughout the state. AB32 was authored by then-Speaker of the California Assembly Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles), and signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on September 27, 2006.Once the Law was signed into place, the ARB then had to set meetings with industry and establish the regulation which put the regulation into effect. The process took years and dozens of public meetings along with private reviews and industry members from all walks of life contributed and accepted the terms of the regulation. Below is the leak regulation requirement for California:
Many people have called me in the last 3 weeks asking if the state or federal government has waived any obligation or relaxed the requirements related to how we manage or perform maintenance, documentation or reporting to agencies that oversee HVAC/R regulations. The answer is NO, a big emphatic NO, all regulations at the State or Federal level MUST be fully complied or your are in violation. It might seem like a catastrophe the size of the Corona Virus would merit a more relaxed regulatory firmness, but that would be wrong. I have spoken with legislative staff, people in the regulatory offices of several states and inquired at the Federal level and received the same firm answer – you are required to:
- Report things that need reporting
- Record things that need recording
- Perform work according to the guidelines
- Record all transactions on systems of the appropriate size
- Have a license to do work (with one exception – see below)
- Capture refrigerants
- Schedule Maintenance according to requirements, so if you are in California, YES you need to have completed your 90 day leak inspections before the 90th day (or very close)
- Leak rate triggers remain in place
We have heard of other people mentioning that technicians are not available to perform the work or refuse to perform it. So, you are busy and can’t seem to get your leak inspections completed, that is going to happen, but here are two things that apply to California ONLY. The requirement to complete a leak inspection which is needed every 90 days (not quarterly) is fully in force but:
- The rule does not specify that a technician must conduct a leak inspection, and that anyone can do so. However, a technician is required to conduct a leak inspection that involves adding/removing refrigerant from a system.
- Also, there is an exemption for up to 45-days when there are no technicians available, but you will need to document the effort was invested and that the event was scheduled.
- If your facilities are still having trouble complying you may want to self-report any instances of non-compliance and document the reasons for the non-compliance so the state of California can consider when evaluating the situation for resolution.
When any Enforcement agent or group looks at any case, there are several factors they use to determine the possibility of sighting someone for a fine or violation. They look at patterns and behavior and if they see a one off missed event, then they will likely take that into consideration. However, if they see hundreds of missed leak inspections over the year, or no leak inspections during the 90 day period or during the quarter, then these behaviors will strengthen their resolve in assigning a significant violation or penalty.
What Should You Be Doing Now?
- If you are a voluntary member of GreenChill, then get your reports to EPA before April 1
- If you are in California then make sure you have had at least 1 leak inspection since January 1 on any appliance over 200 LBS
- If you are in Southern California, then make sure to file your registrations to SCAQMD on time
Regulations are not easy to put in place or to relax, edit or wipe away and that makes them a very powerful guiding force in shaping our behavior, that is usually the goal.
Written by Ted Atwood Ted is the President & CEO of Trakref, a cloud-based HVAC/R and refrigerant management software company that provides unprecedented solutions for commercial properties. He has spent more than 20 years in the HVAC/R industry, even owning and operating one of the nation’s largest refrigerant reclaim and recycling companies.