By Jim Taylor, Editor MACS ACtion magazine
For a long time, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has prohibited sale of “small cans” of refrigerant. That all changed in early April when the governor signed a bill stating that “The department may not promulgate rules prohibiting the sale or offering for sale of any substance used as a substitute for an ozone-depleting refrigerant in a container holding less than 15 pounds of the substance or regulating an individual’s noncommercial use of such a substance that is sold in such a container.”
At a stroke, that move canceled the department’s administrative rule and now allows small cans of refrigerant to appear on store shelves. Supporters of the bill included the AAIA and refrigerant product maker IDQ Holdings. Some backers noted that many DIY’ers simply bought the stuff in neighboring states anyway.
The state has been through this once before as well, but this time it may stick. In spring of 2006, a state senator, backed by several large retail chains and distributors, attempted to overturn the rule but that bill didn’t have the support it needed. Other ploys were tried but none had majority support.
In June of that year, proponents used a new legislative maneuver to get their way. Wisconsin law allows “emergency legislation” to bypass the usual hearings when the need arises; for example, provision of quick relief in a disaster area.
Although there was no refrigerant emergency, the legislature’s Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules voted to suspend current state rules and allow the sale of R-134a to the general public in “do-it-yourself” containers holding less than 15 lbs as of July. Small cans were in the stores. But not for long.
Wisconsin limits the effect of emergency legislation to 150 days, and that period expired in early December, 2006. The small cans were removed from the shelves, and compliance inspectors checked stores to make sure.
So now the cans are back again, and this change also raised questions about the future of Wisconsin’s related rules on technician training, shop licensing, ban on sale of flammable refrigerants and other matters.
“Nothing else has changed, said Judy Cardine, Chief of Regulation and Safety for DATCP. “Everything else remains as it is. The recent bill only affects the prohibition on selling small cans of substitute refrigerant.”
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