In A First, Man Charged For Smuggling 'Greenhouse Gases'

Hart is accused of importing hydrofluorocarbons, which are commonly used in air conditioning and refrigeration.

In A First, Man Charged For Smuggling 'Greenhouse Gases'

A California man, Michael Hart, has been arrested and accused in what is believed to be the first case of smuggling potent greenhouse gases from Mexico into the United States, according to CNN. 

The US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California said that Hart, 58, of San Diego, pleaded not guilty in a federal court hearing on Monday.

Hart is accused of importing hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are commonly used in air conditioning and refrigeration, and then reselling them for profit. 

According to the accusation, he obtained the HFCs in Mexico and brought them across the border in his vehicle, hiding them under a tarp and equipment. These gases were then allegedly sold for a profit on numerous platforms, including Facebook Marketplace and OfferUp.

Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division highlighted the illegality of importing particular refrigerants into the United States because of their significant impact on climate change. Hart's activities, as detailed in the allegations, are viewed as harming international efforts to tackle climate change. 

HFCs, which are used in building insulation, fire extinguishing systems, and aerosols, are not permitted to be imported into the United States without prior clearance from the Environmental Protection Agency. Despite their brief lifetime in the atmosphere, these gases are extremely strong, with some having thousands of times the warming potential of carbon dioxide in the near future.

David M. Uhlmann, assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, denounced the illicit smuggling of hydrofluorocarbons, underscoring the negative impact on worldwide attempts to combat climate change. Hart is also accused of importing HCFC 22, an ozone-depleting compound that has been phased out in the United States since 2020. 

US Attorney Tara McGrath regarded the case as a watershed moment since it marked the first time the Department of Justice prosecuted a person for illegally importing greenhouse gases. 

Hart faces 13 accusations, including conspiracy and unlawful importation, and may face jail terms ranging from five to twenty years. His next hearing is slated for March 25.