The U.S. Senate approved the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act (S. 1660) last week, and the House may vote on it as early as this week. The bill directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products under the Toxic Substances Control Act, imposes key provisions of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) rule at the federal level, and gives the federal government authority to regulate formaldehyde in both domestic and imported wood products. (CLICK HERE for related story.)

This national standard applies to hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard and particleboard sold, supplied, offered for sale, or manufactured in the United States. EPA’s implementing regulations will relate to labeling, chain of custody requirements, sell-through provisions, ultra-low-emitting formaldehyde resins, no-added formaldehyde resins, finished goods, third-party testing and certification; auditing and reporting of third-party certifiers, recordkeeping and enforcement, as well as import regulations.

The Composite Panel Association proposed the bill, has worked closely with a broad alliance of industry and other groups to support it and its president, Tom Julia, offered further details to DWM/Shelter magazine.

Julia points out that since the CARB rules went into effect 18 months ago in California, 100 percent of its members are in compliance throughout the United States and Canada.

“No company wants to have two product lines, so everyone today is equipped to make CARB-compliant products, even outside of California,” he says.

So why is a federal standard necessary?

“Whoever is left that is not complying is quickly going to have to get CARB-compliant with a national standard now in the works,” says Julia.

He also says that internationally, the amount of companies that comply with CARB is much lower, so now, if they sell product in the United States, they also will have to comply.

Julia points out that this legislation was not a reinvention of the wheel.

“What the legislation does is direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to publish a rule by January 1, 2013 that effectively mimics the CARB ruling, then directs them to provide the structure to implement it,” says Julia. “We didn’t have a national standard, and now we’ll have a directive for EPA to implement one.”

Julia says that the rule goes into effect 180 days after it is written, so this will happen no later than the end of June 2013.

“I would say this timing is just about right,” he says. “The market will be comfortable will CARB and this standard won’t change those limits.” (Products sold in the United States would have to meet the CARB Phase 2 formaldehyde emission limits.)

As for the EPA involvement in this issue, Julia says his association took a proactive approach.

“The EPA had started down the regulatory road in 2008—they were going to do this anyway,” says Julia. “So we and others met with them and they were not opposed to using the CARB rule as a model.”

Julia says the House could vote on this legislation this week, either considering its own version of the bill (HR 4805), or simply accepting what the Senate has passed.. Julia adds that the House version is identical to the Senate version, so no one should raise opposition to the bill. Once the House passes its version, the Senate version is expected to go to the president’s desk for his signature.

Stay tuned to for further updates.


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