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This Isn’t California’s Formaldehyde Emissions Rule
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July 13, 2013

Posted By Cindy Squires, Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Right before a Presidential election, federal agencies’ actions are often held at bay as an incumbent administration seeks to avoid election controversies.  However, soon after being elected to a second term, this pent up work starts flowing out of the government.  One of those items is the newly released U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed regulations on formaldehyde emissions for composite wood products.  The proposal, if finalized in its current form, would significantly change the way the wood industry operates in the U.S.  EPA has extended the comment period and expected to do it again very soon (the comments for the Third Party Certifier Program proposed rule are due on September 24 while the comments on the implementing rule are due on October 9, 2013).  If you haven’t taken the time to become informed yet, I recommend you do so soon.  

Some parts of EPA’s proposal make sense, while others raise concerns.  IWPA supports the parts of the proposal that extends the current CARB Formaldehyde rules nationally.  The emission standards contained in EPA’s proposal are identical to the emission standards currently in place under the California Air Resources Board’s Airborne Toxic Control Measure (ATCM). This part of the regulation will be relatively easy for the domestic and imported wood industry to move to a national framework.  Unfortunately, the proposal doesn’t stop there.

EPA’s proposal would significantly expand who is covered by the rule.   Although California’s regulations exempt all laminated products, The EPA proposal adds certain laminated products – where a wood veneer is attached to a compliant platform with a formaldehyde-based resin.  That alone is a dramatic change and should make anyone involved in lamination sit up and take notice.  In addition, the proposed rule requires businesses to collect and disclose formaldehyde emission test results, producer identifying information, and supply chain identifiers to the public.  

The rule is structured to lower the testing and record-keeping burden if a product is made with no-added formaldehyde and ultra low-emitting formaldehyde resins.  But even that isn’t a get out of jail free card, since it comes with mandatory recordkeeping to prove eligibility.   In addition, EPA is proposing to require import certifications of compliance for most covered composite wood products.  EPA feels that such an import requirement would be an important reminder of the formaldehyde requirements.  Such a “reminder” would also make it possible for non-certified or non-compliant product to be held at the port.  

One of the most challenging parts of the proposal is the quick effective date.  EPA has proposed a one-year roll out period, even for laminated products that aren’t currently covered by the CARB rules.   Third Party Certifiers capacity will be stretched very thin by expanding coverage so broadly in such a short period of time.  This is especially since TPCs will also be going through an entirely new EPA certification process during this one-year period.   

It all adds up to a new way of doing business.   I hope you take a moment to let EPA and your Congressional representatives know what you think of this proposed rule.  One of the advantages of participating in your trade association is getting this kind of game changing information early in the process.  I encourage you to take advantage of the information that IWPA and others have made available on the proposed rule.  IWPA held a webinar with EPA on July 25, which was recorded and is available on our website (www.iwpawood.org)  In addition, Travis Snapp with Benchmark International and Professor Chris Knowles of the Oregon Wood Innovation Center, Oregon State University produced an introductory webinar explaining the proposed rule that is available at www.benchmark-intl.com.  

IWPA will continue to keep an eye on this proposal and serve as a source of early information on this and other issues for the wood industry. 

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