Volume 48, Issue 1 - January/February 2009

No More, No Less
Some Asking for Federal CARB Adoption for Formaldehyde Emissions


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is studying the potential health risks of formaldehyde’s use in pressed wood products. Through this process, EPA will develop risk assessments on potential adverse health effects, evaluate the costs and benefits of possible control technologies and approaches and determine whether EPA action is needed to address any identified risks. 

Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
An advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) issued November 25, 2008 describes EPA’s initial steps to investigate potential actions to protect against risks posed by formaldehyde emitted from pressed wood products used in manufactured homes and other places, and requests comment, information and data relating to formaldehyde emissions from pressed wood products.

The original petition was received on March 24, 2008, from 25 organizations and approximately 5,000 individuals, including the Sierra Club, and the petitioners were concerned about risks to human health and the environment from exposure to formaldehyde in composite wood products, including hardwood plywood, particleboard and MDF. The petitioners were asking the EPA “to assess and reduce these risks by exercising its authority under Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) section 6(a) to: adopt and apply nationally the formaldehyde emissions regulation for composite wood products recently approved by the California Air Resources Board (CARB); and to extend the regulation to include composite wood products used in manufactured homes.” EPA had to either grant or deny a TSCA section 21 petition within 90 days of receipt of the petition.

When the EPA had made its original announcement in the Federal Register in April, there was concern of the EPA regulating formaldehyde under section 6(a) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). According to a previous statement, Tom Julia, president of the Composite Panel Association (CPA), said, “That section is troublesome to the wood products industry because we (as an industry) do not believe that a TSCA Section 6(a) approach with its required finding of ‘unreasonable risk’ is an appropriate or justifiable course.”

Then in June, the EPA announced that it was delaying its rulemaking until the fall, to which Julia said, “Rather than an outright denial or acceptance of the rulemaking petition, EPA’s announcement suggests they are striving to take a methodical, prudent and politically astute approach to the merits of federal regulation.”

It was Expected 
Now that the EPA is going to study the risks of formaldehyde emissions, the CPA and other wood products associations are in favor of federal regulation if it includes adopting the CARB rule nationally. A federal adoption of the CARB rule would require all composite wood manufacturers, domestic and offshore, to adhere to the same regulations, which isn’t the case currently.

“We were not surprised, and we were expecting the ANPR to be published this year. It is the logical response to the EPA’s initial finding that they were not prepared to either support or oppose the Sierra Club Petition for rulemaking,” Julia says. “The ANPR process is a fact-finding process to identify all potential issues related to regulation of formaldehyde in wood products and then decide whether to initiate a formal rulemaking notice—probably sometime later next year. However, the ANPR process is very important because the input that will be received by EPA will very likely color the direction that it takes and the scope of the possible rule.”

“In short, our view is that it would be almost irresponsible for the CPA and the wood industry to sit back and allow this process to play out without our intervention. We all have a stake in this … We have reason to want to support a regulation that is going to require everyone in the world to do the same thing,” Julia adds.

Kellie Schroeder, executive vice president of the Moulding and Millwork Producers Association, agrees.

“We need an even table to play on, and we want everyone [domestic and offshore manufacturers] to play by the same rules,” Schroeder says.CPA filed comments with EPA beginning last fall supporting a federal regulation of formaldehyde in composite wood products that is the same as the CARB rule. Julia says that the association had a few reasons for doing so. 

“One, we think it’s bad for business if there is a proliferation of rules in various states that would try to mimic the CARB rule or be slightly different. That would completely dislocate the supply chain,” Julia explains. 

“We also have concerns that somebody might decide at the federal level somewhere down the road to do something different in terms of formaldehyde regulation which could potentially come in conflict with the CARB rule and once again make things difficult if not impossible for the industry to function.”

CPA believes one of the strengths of the CARB rule is that domestic industries overwhelmingly subscribe to the production of low-emitting products. The CPA membership, for example, which includes about 95 percent of domestic producers, and nearly 80 percent of the mills in North America that CPA has certified through its third-party certification program are certified to produce and are producing CARB-compliant products in advance of the new rule, according to Julia. 

“That number is a tiny number by comparison to other parts of the world,” Julia says. “It’s clearly the case that U.S. as well as Canadian and Mexican companies are quickly embracing the CARB rule, made the capital investment; therefore, companies in the wood products industry downstream are able today to secure CARB-compliant products.” 

Julia says that is not the case with companies that continue to source predominantly offshore and especially from Asia. “A great reason why we believe the EPA has interest in a federal regulation stems from the things that they’ve heard from CARB about Asian production and the experience that they have had with FEMA over the Katrina and Rita hurricanes and the use of the trailers where there have been allegations of product largely coming in from offshore that may have had high emission levels,” Julia adds. 

Julia believes that other wood products associations will join in support of federal regulation of the CARB rule. “I believe you are going to see a number of other wood products associations join in and support this regulation and join with the Sierra Club in doing so,” Julia says.

Comments on the ANPR will be accepted for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. All comments should be identified by docket identification no. EPA-HQ-OPPT-2008-0627. You can submit comments at the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov; search for formaldehyde.

"It’s a very substantial document and my recommendation is not to try to address everything in that document. Instead, think about the issues that matter the most to your industry and file your comments narrowly on those issues and why this would be of concern to you in any rule that might come into effect,” he says. 


Make Your Voice Heard
The November 25, 2008, advance notice of proposed rulemaking also announces five public meetings that EPA has scheduled in order to obtain additional stakeholder input. The public meetings will take place in the following locations:

January 8, 2009
1 p.m. to 5 p.m. 
EPA, Main Campus Auditorium (C111B/C) 
109 T.W. Alexander Drive 
Research Triangle Park, NC 27711

January 13, 2009
1 p.m. to 5 p.m. 
State Public Health Building 
800 NE Oregon St., Room 1B 
Portland, OR 97232

January 15, 2009
8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. 
Ralph Metcalfe Federal Building, Room 328 
77 West Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60604

January 26, 2009
1 p.m. to 5 p.m. 
EPA, 
1445 Ross Avenue,12th Floor 
Dallas, TX 75202

January 29, 2009
1 p.m. to 5 p.m. 
EPA East, Room 1153
1201 Constitution Ave.
Washington, DC 20460


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