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Vermont Sets 1993 Ban on CFCs in Car Air Conditioners To Protect Ozone

May 10, 1989

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) _ Vermont is becoming the first state to ban car air conditioners that use a chemical linked to destruction of the atmosphere’s ozone layer, which protects the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation.

Car air conditioners are the single largest source of the U.S. contribution to ozone depletion, according to scientists and testimony before legislative committees.

Gov. Madeleine Kunin has hailed the bill, passed May 2 and which she is expected to sign within the next two weeks, as ″landmark legislation.″

″We are a role model, and we may be a role model for the U.S. Congress,″ she said.

Starting with the 1993 model year, the legislation would ban the sale or registration of cars equipped with air conditioners that use chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, for coolant. Car air conditioners were singled out partly because they use CFC-12, considered the most damaging type of CFC to the ozone layer. Home refrigerators use a different type of CFC.

When CFC molecules rise in the atmosphere, they damage the ozone layer 15 to 20 miles up. Scientists say that lets in extra radiation that increases incidences of skin cancer and eye disease and damages plants and animals crucial to the food chain.

Lobbyist Joan Mulhern of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, which supported the bill, said car air conditioners are the single largest source of CFCs, producing 26.6 percent of the amount released into the environment.

Mulhern based her testimony on studies by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published in 1987.

″The connection between CFCs and the ozone layer is not being debated anymore,″ said state Rep. Curt McCormack, the bill’s major sponsor. ″The argument is when can you have air conditioners without CFCs.″

CFCs, developed as a refrigerant in 1930 by a General Motors chemist, were considered ideal chemicals because they are non-toxic and noncombustible.

The chemicals are widely used as coolants and as propellants, such as in spray cans. Under Vermont’s bill, the sale of CFC-propelled noisemakers and plastic party streamers, as well as non-commercial or non-industrial uses of CFCs for cleaning photographic or electronic equipment, would be banned next year.

Supporters of Vermont’s legislation say it is the most far-reaching of any of the two dozen ozone-protection bills introduced in state legislatures this year. Only legislatures in Vermont and Hawaii have passed ozone protection measures.

Hawaii’s governor is expected to sign a bill that would ban the sale of CFC cartridges for recharging car air conditioners. It also would raise standards for car air conditioning repair shops.

Virtually the only opposition to Vermont’s bill was from a representative of General Motors, McCormack said. Legislators were told that alternative coolants being developed by Dupont were not as efficient as the those now available, and that new coolants will require development of compatible lubricants and seals.

Car dealers didn’t oppose it. ″Our stand was really pretty neutral,″ said Charles Ffolliott, the Vermont representative of the National Automotive Dealers Association.

He estimated that more than half of the new cars sold in Vermont are equipped with air conditioning. Nationally, roughly 90 percent of all new cars have air-conditioning.

McCormack acknowleged that relatively low temperatures in Vermont make the prospects of a summer without an air-conditioned car more palatable than in some states. Vermont’s average high temperature in July is only 70 degrees Farenheit.

He also said Detroit lobbyists never specifically said they couldn’t produce CFC-free air conditioners by 1993.

The bill won widespread support from Vermont’s legislators.

″Vermont legislators who support this legislation were very sincere when they said we were willing to do without air conditioning in our cars,″ said Mulhern.

The international Montreal Protocol, signed in 1987, called for halving CFC emissions by 1999.

But at a meeting in Finland last week, attended by delegates from 81 countries, scientists said ozone depletion is proceeding more rapidly than was previously believed.

″The amount of CFCs produced by Vermont is minuscule, but to the extent this helps to light the way this could be a very important breakthrough,′ ′ said state Sen. Stephen Reynes.

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