A Hole in the Sky: Ozone Depletion - Montreal Protocol Problems

cfcs united hcfc smuggling

Implementation and enforcement of the Montreal Protocol have been aggravated by two factors—the reluctance of many countries to ratify amendments to the Protocol and the thriving black market in banned chemicals.

Amendment Ratification Moves Slowly

The United Nations reported that 186 countries had ratified the original Montreal Protocol as of January 2004. In total, four amendments to the Protocol have been adopted. These are known as the London Amendment (effective 1992), the Copenhagen Amendment (effective 1994), the Montreal Amendment (effective 1999), and the Beijing Amendment (effective 2002). Nations have been slow to ratify the amendments. For example, as of early 2004 only 68 nations have ratified the Beijing Amendment. The United States has ratified all amendments to the Montreal Protocol.

Black-Market CFCs

Under the Montreal Protocol, developing countries are permitted to produce CFCs until January 1, 2010. It is illegal, however, to import CFCs into the United States. The ban on CFCs—including Freon, which was widely used for air conditioning automobiles—created a black market for the product. Demand by the approximately 80

Comparison of the Montreal Protocol and United States phaseout schedules

Montreal Protocol United States
Year to be implemented % Reduction in consumption using the cap as a baseline Year to be implemented Implementation of HCFC phaseout through Clean Air Act regulations
2004 35.0% 2003 No production and no importing of HCFC-141b
2010 65.0% 2010 No production and no importing of HCFC-142b and HCFC-22, except for use in equipment manufactured before 1/1/2010 (so no production or importing for NEW equipment that uses these refrigerants)
2015 90.0% 2015 No production and no importing of any HCFCs, except for use as refrigerants in equipment manufactured before 1/1/2020
2020 99.5% 2020 No production and no importing of HCFC-142b and HCFC-22
2030 100.0% 2030 No production and no importing of any HCFCs
HCFC = hydrochlorofluorocarbon
SOURCE: "Comparison of the Montreal Protocol and United States Phaseout Schedules," in HCFC Phaseout Schedule, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, May 7, 2002 [Online] http://www.epa.gov/ozone/title6/phaseout/hcfc.html [accessed May 15, 2002]

million American owners of older cars, which still use the refrigerant in their air-conditioning systems, caused prices to spiral upward.

Several U.S. government agencies—the EPA, the Customs Service, the Departments of Commerce and Justice, and the Internal Revenue Service—began intensive anti-smuggling efforts. In 2000 the EPA reported that approximately two million pounds of CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances had been seized and impounded since the 1996 phaseout of CFCs began and more than ninety individuals and businesses had been charged with smuggling. Early arrests for CFC smuggling were made primarily in Miami; authorities then began to notice these illegal imports creeping into other port cities, such as Houston and Baltimore. They also made their way into Europe, which banned CFCs one year before the United States.

In late 2003 a London-based nonprofit organization called the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) reported that international trade in illegal ozone-depleting substances is very detrimental to achieving progress under the Montreal Protocol (Tom Maliti, "Illegal Trade in Ozone-Depleting Substances Is Thriving over Three Continents, Says Report," Associated Press, November 11, 2003). According to the EIA, the port cities of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and Singapore are "major transit points" in the smuggling efforts. The report notes that demand for illegal CFCs remains high in the United States, Russia, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Nepal.

Successful smuggling of CFCs typically involves false labeling, counterfeit paperwork, and fake export corporations. The EIA claims to have evidence that several companies based in Singapore illegally export CFCs to the United States. The organization says the companies make a 75–225 percent profit on each kilogram sold. The EIA estimates worldwide trade in illegal CFCs to be 18–27 million kilograms per year.

In November 2003 the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced its latest conviction in a massive Freon smuggling ring based in Panama that operated during the 1990s to supply Freon to customers in southern Florida. This is the third major conviction achieved in the case. In 2001 a U.S. district judge sentenced two men to up to two years in prison for their role in the smuggling scheme and for tax evasion. In 2003 their business partner was found guilty of tax fraud and money laundering. Authorities claim that the man laundered more than $8 million in profits from the smuggling operation by moving the money via wire transfers through a series of bank accounts and corporations in Panama.

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