Department of Justice Prosecutes Someone for Illegally Importing Greenhouse Gases

How to Transport a Fridge by Yourself ((( Part 1 ))) - YouTube

A San Diego man who allegedly smuggled refrigerants into the United States from Mexico is the first in the United States to be prosecuted under a recently enacted law aimed at mitigating climate change. The Department of Justice says the case marks the first prosecution in the United States to include charges related to the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act of 2020.


This law prohibits the importation of hydrofluorocarbons — or HFCs — without approval by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). HFCs are a class of potent greenhouse gases commonly used in refrigeration and air conditioning, aerosols, and foam products. Their climate impact can be hundreds to thousands of times greater than carbon dioxide. The AIM Act, enacted by Congress in 2020, authorizes EPA to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs by 85 percent in a stepwise manner by 2036 through an allowance allocation and trading program. The AIM Act also directs EPA to maximize reclamation of HFCs, minimize releases of HFCs from equipment, and facilitate the transition to next-generation technologies to replace HFCs.


Hart is accused of buying refrigerants in Mexico and trafficking them into the US in his vehicle by hiding them under a tarpaulin and tools. He posted the refrigerants for sale on OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace and other sites.

He faces 13 separate charges, including conspiracy, as well as multiple counts of illegal importation and selling imported goods illegally. He could face a maximum of 45 years in prison if convicted on all of the charges and 20 years if convicted on either of the counts related to illegal importation, according to the Attorney’s Office of Southern California. He also faces fines of up to $750,000.

The indictment also alleges that Hart illegally imported HCFC-22, an ozone-depleting substance commonly used as a propellant and refrigerant. In 2020, such applications of HCFC-22 were phased out in developed countries under the Montreal Protocol because of its ozone depleting properties.


In short, Mr. Hart’s Tarrest highlights the EPA’s and Justice Department’s efforts to prevent refrigerants that are climate super-pollutants from illegally entering the United States.

“The illegal smuggling of hydrofluorocarbons, a highly potent greenhouse gas, undermines international efforts to combat climate change under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. Anyone who seeks to profit from illegal actions that worsen climate change must be held accountable.” ~David M. Uhlmann, EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

The EPA says potent greenhouse gases are typically used for refrigeration, air conditioning, building insulation, fire extinguishing systems, and aerosols. And the global warming potential of HFCs are exponentially more potent than carbon dioxide, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

My opinion? Yes, it is illegal to import certain refrigerants into the United States because of their documented and significantly greater contribution to climate change. Nevertheless, I doubt Mr. Hart actually intended to unlawfully import greenhouse gases. More likely, he simply attempted to buy and sell used refrigerators and was unaware of the environmental impact of his transactions.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.