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California bans blow-in flotation foam agent

California Senate Bill SB 103 will ban hydrofluorocarbon 134a and other HFCs used as the foam expansion agents in boatbuilding in 2020. Several boat builders told Trade Only Today that the new law will not affect them, but the National Marine Manufacturers Association said that any builder using these foams should plan to use a non-HFC blowing agent.

“We already switched to an alternative foam,” Barrett Howarth, vice president of Mag Bay Yachts in Adelanto, Calif., told Trade Only Today. Jeff Johnston, president of DCB Performance Boats in El Cajon, Calif., said his company doesn’t use flotation foam. Neither do Correct Craft subsidiaries Centurion and Supreme in Merced, Calif., according Correct Craft CEO Bill Yeargin.

California Senate Bill SB 103 will go into effect on January 1, 2020. SB 103 would take the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “Significant Alternative Policy” rule and adopt it word for word in California, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association Currents newsletter. That EPA rule had been vacated by the courts. The trade association originally questioned the state’s authority to regulate products manufactured outside its jurisdiction where the HFC 134a is applied.

According to NMMA, a study by the California Air Resources Board in 2011 found that seven percent of marine buoyancy foam expansion agent is emitted at the time of manufacture. Less than two percent is released during the phase and the remaining 90 percent foam expansion agent (HFC 134a) is emitted at the end of a boat’s life. Here’s a link to the study.

“Due to the logistical challenges of building a boat for California only,” said the association, “NMMA recommends that boat builders start discussions with their foam supplier and begin transitioning to a non-HFC blowing agent. Even if you have no plans for sales in California, Canada will be following California with a similar rule in 2021. Fortunately, suitable U.S. Coast Guard-approved alternatives exist.” 

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