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San Diego man is first to be charged with smuggling greenhouse gases into the U.S. – ‘Accused of bringing hydrofluorocarbons…which violates regulations set in 2020 to slow climate change’

A man has been arrested and charged in San Diego for smuggling greenhouse gases into the United States, marking the first prosecution of its kind in the country, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Southern California announced on Monday.

Michael Hart, a 58-year-old San Diego resident, is accused of bringing hydrofluorocarbons — chemical compounds commonly used for refrigeration and air conditioning — from Mexico to the U.S. and selling them for profit, which violates regulations set in 2020 to slow climate change under the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act. The AIM Act gives the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to reduce production and consumption nationwide of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, since they have been identified as one of the most potent greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere and contributing to rising temperatures.

At this point, smuggling HFCs into the U.S. is illegal, and officials are working to phase down new manufacturing of the compounds within the country. More restrictions on the use of certain HFCs will take effect next year, according to the EPA.

Hart faces 13 separate charges, including conspiracy, importation contrary to law, multiple counts of selling imported merchandise contrary to law and criminal forfeiture. He could face decades in prison if convicted on any one of the charges related to illegal importation.

“It is illegal to import certain refrigerants into the United States because of their documented and significantly greater contribution to climate change,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim, of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, in a statement issued after Hart’s arrest. “We are committed to enforcing the AIM Act and other laws that seek to prevent environmental harm.”