April 8, 2024 at 12:34 pm

How One Man Was Charged For Smuggling Greenhouse Gasses

by Trisha Leigh

Image Credit: Shutterstock

No, this is not a joke about having too much dairy before boarding a flight.

When you think about getting busted for smuggling, I would guess, though, that “greenhouse gasses” wouldn’t be the first thing to come to mind.

Or honestly even the last.

The accused is a 59-year-old San Diego man named Michael Hart. He was arrested for bringing banned refrigerants (called hydrofluorocarbons) into the US from Mexico.

Hart allegedly hid the chemicals in his truck before selling them on Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, etc.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

He is also accused of bringing HCFC 22, another ozone-depleting substance, into the country.

Hart is pleading not guilty to the charges that include conspiracy, importation contrary to law, and sale of that “contrary to law” merchandise.

According to U.S. Attorney Tara McGrath, this is the first set of charges related to a 2020 act that bans the importation of HFCs without authorization.

“This is the first time the Department of Justice is prosecuting someone for illegally importing greenhouse gases, and it will not be the last. We are using every means possible to protect our planet from the harm caused by toxic pollutants, including bringing criminal charges.”

Hydrofluorocarbons are a group of human-made gases that are damaging to the environment and became popular in the 1990s as the global demand for air-conditioning increased.

Thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide, they have a considerable warming effect even though they only make up 2% of all greenhouse gases.

World leaders agreed in 2016 to reduce the use and productions of HFCs, and in 2020, the US banned their import.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Even if civilians might not have considered HFCs something they could find on the black market, climate campaign lead at the Environmental Investigation Agency Avipsa Mahapatra warns it’s more than possible.

“At that time, the street value of a cylinder of CFCs was nearly matching that of cocaine. It is critical that we stop the illegal trade of HFCs before we reach that state again. Our climate can’t afford that.”

It sounds like Mr. Hart might have been the first, but he probably won’t be the last.

One more thing to worry about when it comes to our southern border.

If you think that’s impressive, check out this story about a “goldmine” of lithium that was found in the U.S. that could completely change the EV battery game.