Gina McCarthy, who faces a hearing Thursday morning on her fitness to serve as EPA administrator, was primarily responsible for EPA’s promotion of an automotive air conditioning refrigerant that caused engine fires in Mercedes Benz testing, MailOnline can report.
McCarthy, EPA’s current air regulation chief, ‘provided the real forward motion’ for a plan to reward US automakers who used the new climate-change-friendly refrigerant known as ‘HFO-1234yf,’ according to an EPA staffer with knowledge of the agency’s internal processes who spoke on condition of anonymity.
When her EPA subagency, the Office of Air and Radiation, approved HOF-1234yf, McCarthy said that the chemical ‘helps fight climate change and ozone depletion.’
That’s because its emission into the atmosphere creates a far smaller greenhouse-gas footprint than other refrigerants used in vehicles.
The approval came as part of the EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Program, which evaluates and regulates substitutes for the ozone-depleting chemicals.
But when McCarthy gave SNAP approval to HFO-1234yf, her office never mentioned the tests conducted by Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz.
A Daimler engineer told Reuters in December that his team was ‘frozen in shock’ when they saw test after test of HOF-1234yf turn a car’s engine compartment into an inferno after small leaks were simulated.
‘I am not going to deny it,’ Stefan Geyer said. ‘We needed a day to comprehend what we had just seen.’
Mercedes has released a video showing the conflagration, and comparing it to a nonflammable leak of the industry’s standard refrigerant, known as R134A
The fireball that engulfed their precision engines was caused by a mixture of the refrigerant and air-conditioning compressor oil spraying across the engine block, producing a quick-heated mixture of toxic gas, including hydrogen fluoride – a corrosive compound that can destroy skin after the briefest of exposures and quickly cause blindness.
*Linked article contains images of hands burned by this refrigerant.