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California Man Becomes First In US To Be Charged With Smuggling Potent Greenhouse Gases From Mexico

Authorities on Monday arrested a California man on his first charges for allegedly smuggling a powerful greenhouse gas from Mexico into the United States, officials said.

The United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California has identified San Diego resident Michael Hart as the suspect charged by authorities. Authorities said Mr. Hart introduced potent greenhouse gases and then sold them “for profit,” thereby aiming to “curb greenhouse gas use and slow climate change.” It alleges that it violated U.S. regulations. (Related: Major manufacturer faces second-largest environmental fine in history)

Mr. Hart's arrest is the first indictment in the United States related to the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act (AIM Act). The AIM Act, signed into law by former President Donald Trump in late 2020, aims to give the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority to oversee reductions in both oil production and consumption. hydrofluorocarbon (HFC). Although HFCs are commonly used by federal agencies for a variety of applications including refrigeration, air conditioning, building insulation, fire suppression systems, and aerosols, the EPA notes that HFCs are “hundreds to thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide. ” states that it may be. stated in the release.

Authorities allege Hart bought the refrigerant in Mexico and smuggled it into the United States by hiding it “under a tarp and tools” in his car. The San Diego resident then allegedly posted the items on OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace and other sites before selling them for “profit.” Additionally, authorities allege that Hart imported HCFC 22, an “ozone depleting substance” regulated by the Clean Air Act.

“Our office is on the front lines of environmental prosecution, and today marks an important milestone for our country,” said U.S. Attorney Tara McGrath. “This is the first time the Department of Justice has prosecuted someone for illegally importing greenhouse gases, and it won’t be the last. I am teaching.”

Prior to 2020, EPA regulations regarding ozone-depleting substances, including HCFC 22, did not allow imports of “regulated ozone-depleting substances'' in excess of personal consumption. However, by January 1, 2020, all consumption allowances for HCFC 22 had been abolished, making it illegal to import HCFC 22 “for any purpose other than use in processes that result in alteration or destruction,” according to a press release. is stated.

“The illegal smuggling of hydrofluorocarbons, a highly potent greenhouse gas, is undermining international efforts to combat climate change under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol,” said David, Deputy Director of the EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.・M. Woolman said. “Anyone who seeks to profit from illegal activities that worsen climate change must be held accountable. “This underscores the importance of our efforts to stop the virus from entering the United States.”

Since Hart's arrest, the San Diego resident has been arraigned and has maintained his innocence. Mr. Hart's next hearing is scheduled for March 25 before U.S. District Judge Jeffrey T. Miller.

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