SoCal man first in U.S. to be charged with smuggling greenhouse gases

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By Calvin S. Nelson

A San Diego man has been arrested on suspicion of smuggling potent greenhouse gases into the US from Mexico, turning into the primary within the nation to be charged with smuggling the environmentally dangerous gases which can be generally used as refrigerants, based on federal prosecutors.

Michael Hart, 58, is accused of hiding the hydrofluorocarbons, also called HFCs, in his automobile to move them throughout the border from Mexico, based on a information launch from the U.S. legal professional’s workplace for the Southern District of California. Hydrofluorocarbons are thought-about a serious driver of world warming and have been focused in local weather laws and treaties worldwide. In 2022, the refrigerants turned unlawful to import within the U.S. with out allowances from the Environmental Safety Company.

Hart, who was arrested Monday, pleaded not responsible within the case, based on prosecutors. Hart’s legal professional, Sebastian L. Swain-Gil with the Federal Defenders of San Diego, didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.

“That is the primary time the Division of Justice is prosecuting somebody for illegally importing greenhouse gases, and it’ll not be the final,” Tara McGrath, U.S. legal professional for the Southern District of California, stated in a press release. “We’re utilizing each means potential to guard our planet from the hurt attributable to poisonous pollution, together with bringing felony costs.”

The indictment in opposition to Hart alleged he posted the refrigerants — which are sometimes utilized in refrigeration, air-conditioning and constructing insulation — on the market throughout on-line websites akin to OfferUp and Fb Market, and offered them for a revenue. Along with greenhouse gases, the indictment alleges Hart imported HCFC-22, one other ozone-depleting substance extremely regulated by federal officers.

The indictment stated that Hart conspired with folks in each Mexico and the U.S. to purchase and promote the refrigerant from June 2022 by December 2022.

“The unlawful smuggling of hydrofluorocarbons, a extremely potent greenhouse fuel, undermines worldwide efforts to fight local weather change beneath the Kigali Modification to the Montreal Protocol,” stated David M. Uhlmann, EPA assistant administrator for the Workplace of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Anybody who seeks to revenue from unlawful actions that worsen local weather change should be held accountable. This arrest highlights the importance of EPA’s local weather enforcement initiative and our efforts to forestall refrigerants which can be local weather tremendous pollution from illegally getting into the US.”

The Kigali Modification sought to restrict the use and manufacturing of HFCs throughout the globe and discover cleaner options for refrigerants. Practically 200 nations agreed to the deal in 2016, although the U.S. didn’t signal on till 2021, after President Biden took workplace.

The Related Press contributed to this report.

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