Caught Smuggling Greenhouse Gases!

Apr 16, 2024 By Ananya S, Writer Intern
Anonymous's picture

Did you know that a California man was recently arrested and charged for allegedly smuggling greenhouse gases from Mexico?

Officials say that even though this is the first time the Department of Justice is prosecuting someone for smuggling greenhouse gases, it definitely won’t be the last.

This arrest is a part of the US government’s stricter approach to stopping environmentally damaging pollutants and dangerous chemicals from spreading. So, what was he transporting and why was it an issue? Let's find out. 


Michael Hart, the California man, was accused of smuggling a type of refrigerant gas called hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, over the US-Mexico border.

Refrigerants are gases that had previously been used in refrigerators and air conditioners. They were found to be extremely harmful to the ozone layer and the environment. Many refrigerants, such as CFCs, have been completely banned in many countries.

Since it was found that HFCs have a global warming potential hundreds to thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide, countries have started to focus on reducing them too. Under the landmark Montreal Protocol and its Kigali Amendment in 2016, nations agreed to start phasing out HFCs.

However, there is an illegal trade in these gases to keep older refrigerators and air conditioners running. The European Union, which started to phase out HFCs a decade ago, has gathered around 250 tons of illicit HFCs in nearly 600 seizures.

As for the US, they banned HFC imports in 2020 under the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 (AIM Act). Violating this law can earn someone up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. 

How Are These Laws Implemented?

In Hart’s case, his multiple counts can give him up to twenty years in prison and a $250,000 fine. This reflects the firm stance of the U.S. on this issue.

Additionally, the company Resonac America was also punished for importing around 6,208 pounds of illegal HFCs in 2023-2024. They have to pay $416,003 as a penalty and destroy 1,693 pounds of the harmful chemical. Overall, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection have denied entry to around 81 shipments of illegal HFCs since January 2022. 

However, HFCs aren’t the only harmful chemical that the United States is working to stop. On March 18th of this year, the EPA finalized a ban on Chrysotile, the only type of asbestos still used in the US.

Also known as white asbestos, this mineral is heat and fire-resistant and is used in roofs, ceilings, and walls of homes and businesses as well as in automobile parts. It has already been banned in over 50 countries because just like other forms of asbestos, it is linked to diseases such as lung cancer and mesothelioma cancer.

Health advocates claim that asbestos is linked to around 40,000 deaths annually in the US. The new EPA regulation has been created after hard work from health advocates and others concerned about the dangers of asbestos. 

The creation and implementation of these new regulations highlight a positive trend in the US of stopping harmful chemicals and materials.

Sources: NY Times,, Scientific American,