US makes first arrest of greenhouse gas smuggler

By Lesley Clark | 03/06/2024 06:21 AM EST

A California resident faces charges under a 2020 law that seeks to curb powerful planet-warming hydrofluorocarbons.

The U.S. Department of Justice is seen on June 20, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Department of Justice headquarters in Washington. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

A San Diego man who allegedly smuggled greenhouse gases into the United States from Mexico and sold them will be the first person prosecuted under a 2020 law aimed at slowing climate change.

According to an indictment against him, Michael Hart, 58, purchased hydrofluorocarbons — chemical compounds commonly used for refrigeration — and smuggled them across the U.S. border in his vehicle, concealed under a tarp and tools.

Hart posted the refrigerants for sale on OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace and other sites, and he sold them for a profit, the indictment alleges. In addition to smuggling greenhouse gases, the indictment accuses Hart of importing HCFC-22, an ozone-depleting substance regulated under the Clean Air Act.


Hart’s prosecution is the first in the United States to include charges related to the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act, a 2020 law that prohibits importation of HFCs without permission from EPA. At the time it was passed, the bipartisan law was considered the most significant congressional action on climate change in years.