California man is first in the US to be charged with smuggling greenhouse gases, prosecutors say

SAN DIEGO– A Southern California man was arrested Monday on suspicion of smuggling refrigerants from Mexico into the US. Federal prosecutors said he is the first person charged with violating regulations intended to curb the use of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

The indictment alleges that Michael Hart, of San Diego, smuggled the ozone-depleting chemicals across the border, concealing them under a tarp and tools in his vehicle. He posted them for sale on the Internet, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Hart was arraigned Monday afternoon and pleaded not guilty to 13 charges, including conspiracy, sale of prohibited materials and illegal importation, the statement said.

Prosecutors say it is the first prosecution in the U.S. to include charges related to a 2020 law that bans the import of hydrofluorocarbons, often used as refrigerants, without approval from the Environmental Protection Agency.

“This is the first time the Department of Justice has prosecuted someone for illegally importing greenhouse gases, and it will not be the last,” U.S. Attorney Tara McGrath said in a statement. “We are using all possible means to protect our planet from the effects of climate change. damage caused by toxic pollutants, including the filing of criminal charges.”

Hydrofluorocarbons are covered by the Clean Air Act. They are used in applications such as refrigeration, air conditioning, building insulation, fire suppression systems and aerosols.

Hart was ordered to return to court on March 25.