Refcom Welcomes F Gas warnings
The EAC believes the Environment Agency is under-resourced and, therefore, incapable of enforcing the regulations effectively. It pointed to “large levels of non-compliance” and the fact that there had been just one prosecution since they came into force…
The UK’s leading F Gas Register operator Refcom has welcomed a parliamentary report that seriously questions the UK’s progress on reducing emissions of global warming gases. Head of Refcom Graeme Fox said he was delighted that the cross-party Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), which is chaired by Labour MP Mary Creagh, had taken on board all of the concerns he submitted in written evidence and during a face-to-face inquiry last year about lack of enforcement of the F Gas regulations.
The EAC believes the Environment Agency is under-resourced and, therefore, incapable of enforcing the regulations effectively. It pointed to “large levels of non-compliance” and the fact that there had been just one prosecution since they came into force.
In its report ‘UK Progress on Reducing F Gas Emissions’, the EAC called on the government to increase the resources available for monitoring usage and sales of refrigerant gases – particularly, online where Refcom has noted an considerable rise in the availability of unregulated and potentially counterfeit supplies; some using disposable cylinders that have been illegal for more than a decade.
The committee, which includes Green party MP Caroline Lucas, also highlighted safety concerns around flammable gases and their use by unqualified individuals.
“The committee picked up on our concerns around the issue of people using flammable refrigerants to top up systems not designed for their use. It acknowledged that the use of refrigerants with lower global warming potential often has a trade off in terms of safety and efficiency,” said Fox.
“The EAC agreed with us that the government must now urgently consult with industry to ensure the workforce is properly trained and upskilled to deal with the roll out of flammable (and mildly flammable) alternative refrigerants,” he said. The Environment Agency told the committee it regularly monitored social media sites, such as Amazon and eBay, and received intelligence on potential breaches from the industry, but the only successful prosecution was of a company that turned itself in.
“The low number of investigations and the single prosecution for a self-reported breach since the beginning of 2015, when the current F Gas Regulation came into effect, do not inspire confidence,” said the EAC report. The Environment Agency was recently given the power to apply on-the-spot fines of up to £200,000, but the committee said these would still be difficult to enforce without improved resources. It also criticised the government’s decision not to apply criminal sanctions to the most serious breaches.
“We recommend that the Government reviews the effectiveness of the F Gas compliance regime annually, indicating the actions it is taking, the resource it is assigning to such activities, the number of investigations carried out and the number of successful prosecutions achieved,” added the EAC report.