San Diego Man Charged With Smuggling Greenhouse Gases

An individual has been arrested and charged in San Diego for smuggling greenhouse gases into the United States, which is the first prosecution of its kind in the country, as announced by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Southern California on Monday.

Michael Hart, a 58-year-old San Diego resident, allegedly transported hydrofluorocarbons from Mexico to the U.S. and sold them for profit, breaking regulations established in 2020 to combat climate change under the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act. The AIM Act grants the Environmental Protection Agency the power to decrease the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) across the country. HFCs are recognized as a significant contributor to global warming due to their potency as greenhouse gases.

Currently, bringing HFCs into the U.S. is against the law, and authorities are striving to reduce the production of these compounds domestically. Additional limitations on the usage of specific HFCs will be implemented next year, as per the EPA.

Hart is charged with 13 offenses, such as conspiracy, illegal importation, selling imported goods against the law, and criminal forfeiture. If found guilty of any of the charges linked to illegal importation, he may be sentenced to several decades in prison.

Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim stated that certain refrigerants cannot be imported into the United States due to their significant impact on climate change, as documented in a statement released after Hart’s arrest. We are dedicated to upholding the AIM Act and other regulations aimed at preventing harm to the environment.

U.S. Attorney Tara McGrath, representing California’s southern district, described the indictment as a major achievement for the country in a separate statement.

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“This marks the Department of Justice’s initial prosecution for unlawfully importing greenhouse gases, with more to come,” McGrath stated. “We are taking all necessary actions to safeguard our planet from the damage caused by harmful pollutants, even pursuing legal action.”

The accusation against Hart claims that he purchased refrigerants in Mexico and brought them into the U.S. by concealing them under a tarp and tools in his car, according to McGrath’s office. He reportedly listed the refrigerants for sale on Facebook Marketplace, the app OfferUp, and other sites, making a profit from the sales. The indictment claims that in addition to greenhouse gases, Hart imported HCFC-22, a compound commonly used in air conditioning known to deplete the ozone layer and regulated under the Clean Air Act.

Authorities have pointed out that bringing in these substances illegally goes against both national and international regulations, such as the 1987 Montreal Protocol. This agreement, which has been adopted by many countries including the U.S., aims to gradually reduce substances that harm the ozone layer.

Hart made his first appearance in federal court on Monday and entered a plea of not guilty to the charges filed against him, as reported by McGrath’s office. He is scheduled to appear for another pre-trial hearing on March 25 in front of U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller.

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