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Photo courtesy of P2I/New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Photo courtesy of P2I/New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

DEC announces completion of projects to replace greenhouse gas refrigerants in disadvantaged communities


Thu, Mar 7th 2024 08:15 pm

Buffalo and Islandia stores serve as training locations for Green Workforce Development opportunities

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Press Release

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced the completion of two projects that successfully demonstrate the use of sustainable refrigerants in grocery stores as a replacement for climate-altering greenhouse gas refrigerants.

The projects, at an ALDI in Buffalo and a Walgreens in Islandia (Suffolk County), are models for future commercial sustainable refrigeration transitions in supermarkets and drugstores in disadvantaged communities.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “New York state continues to advance efforts to help reduce climate-altering greenhouse gases and strengthen community resilience. These retailers in Buffalo and Islandia will help bring New York closer to realizing the Climate Act’s ambitious emission reduction requirements. I applaud ALDI and Walgreens’ proactive approach to advance sustainable refrigeration in communities that are most vulnerable to environmental pollution. These projects are models for other food retailers statewide to work with DEC to reduce the pollution contributing to climate change.”

Buildings contribute 32% of statewide greenhouse gas emissions in New York – the most of all sectors. The Climate Action Council scoping plan recommends phasing out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are extremely potent greenhouse gases, to advance emission reductions in this sector. The demonstration projects undertaken by Walgreens and ALDI will help guide a statewide transition away from HFCs while informing policy development and programming, and help New York reach its emission reduction requirements.

By modeling a successful project and exemplifying its benefits, the state hopes to encourage businesses across New York to transition to natural refrigeration systems. In addition, by using these locations as training sites, the North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council (NASRC) will be able to facilitate workforce development and help support the widespread adoption of climate-friendly technologies.

The projects are supported by the State Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) and were completed through a partnership with NASRC and the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I). The EPF is a critical resource for climate mitigation and other programs such as land acquisition, farmland protection, environmental justice, invasive species prevention and eradication, recreation access, and water quality improvement. In the 2024-25 executive budget, Gov. Kathy Hochul kept funding for the EPF at $400 million, the highest-ever level of funding in the program's history.

The Buffalo ALDI and Islandia Walgreens upgraded from synthetic HFC refrigerants to systems that use natural alternatives. HFCs are often used in refrigeration and cooling and can have hundreds to thousands of times higher global warming potentials than natural refrigerants, meaning HFCs have a significant impact on climate change.

NYSP2I will conduct research and monitoring to compare pre- and post-installation efficiency and emissions data for ALDI. Sustainability considerations will also be monitored and analyzed by Walgreens, including the ability to achieve required temperatures, energy efficiency, maintenance, and ultimately total emission comparisons between equipment types. These studies are expected to be completed in 2024.

The projects will help demonstrate New York’s efforts to address the upfront cost barriers of technology adoption, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and ensure food security. NASRC will also coordinate free technician training events at both sites to increase opportunities for the local technician workforce to learn about natural refrigerant equipment and systems.

Consistent with New York’s landmark Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, New York state adopted regulations in 2020 that limit HFCs in new equipment. These projects support the Climate Act requirements to reduce statewide emissions 85% by 2050 and ensure at least 35% of benefits, with a goal of 40%, are directed to disadvantaged communities.

In December 2023, DEC released proposed regulations to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions from refrigerants, foams, and aerosol propellants. The draft regulation includes prohibitions, reporting, and other requirements regarding the sale, use and supply of HFCs and new products and systems that contain HFCs to help achieve the required statewide greenhouse gas emission limits.

Public comments on the draft regulations are being accepted until March 19.

Vice President of National Real Estate for ALDI Dan Gavin said, “At ALDI, we’re taking tangible steps to support a healthier planet without raising prices so consumers can feel good about shopping our aisles. We are transitioning to environmentally friendly natural alternatives across all of our stores by 2035 that will not only keep products fresh, but also reduce nearly 60% of potential carbon emissions each year. As ALDI continues to grow, we are committed to making sustainable shopping affordable and accessible to everyone.”

Greg Sisk from Walgreens engineering said, “Walgreens is committed to staying at the front end of sustainable solutions. This project and similar projects completed in other parts of the country are a demonstration of our commitment to our roadmap for implementing lower global warming potential refrigerants and enhancing development of maintenance labor competency through commercialization and adoption of new technology.”

NASRC Executive Director Danielle Wright said, “We applaud the leadership of these retailers for proactively transitioning to climate-friendly technologies. This pilot funded by DEC demonstrates how states can drive significant emissions reduction that is not only cost-effective but supports businesses, ensures food security, and catalyzes workforce training and development.”

Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter Conservation Director Roger Downs said, “The advancement of heat pumps and modern cooling technologies are important solutions to the climate crisis – but it makes little sense to continue to operate them using HFCs when there are far safer alternatives that have far less potency as greenhouse gases. The Sierra Club applauds the Hochul administration for advancing new rules to ratchet down the use of harmful HFCs and funding pilot products in disadvantaged communities that showcase affordable alternative refrigerants that will significantly cut climate pollution.”

Dr. Richie Kaur, non-CO2 climate pollution reduction advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “The completion of these two projects shows that it’s possible for grocery stores to take concrete steps against climate change right now. Hydrofluorocarbons are super-pollutants that have hundreds to thousands of times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide and their unchecked growth could add up to 0.5 degrees Celsius to global temperatures by the end of the century. New York is a leader in enabling the transition away from HFCs in supermarkets and for proposing new standards for climate-friendly heating and cooling equipment across the state. If finalized, the DEC's current proposed regulation will help meet the state's climate goals, provide national leadership, and predictability and clarity for industry."

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