• Thomas Russell

AHFA: Federal formaldehyde compliance deadlines remain in effect

Negative comments kill proposed extension requested by industry

HIGH POINT – In response to negative comments regarding proposed deadline extensions for the national formaldehyde standard for composite wood products, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will revert back to an original deadline schedule, according to the American Home Furnishings Alliance.

This could pose challenges for the industry, which at this point will have to adhere to tighter deadlines established by the EPA in December 2016.

“As a result of this unexpected development, the original compliance timeline for the federal formaldehyde rule remains unchanged,” said Bill Perdue, vice president of regulatory affairs for the AHFA. “All the original December deadlines published in the formaldehyde emission standard are in effect.”

On May 24, the EPA proposed extending various deadlines between three and 15 months.

However, as of a June 8 deadline, it received nine comments to the changes, at least one of which that was published on the EPA website was negative. The EPA indicated at the start of the comment period that any negative feedback would result in the changes not taking effect.

In this comment the unnamed individual stated, “While this deadline extension may help decrease burdens felt by regulated entities or supply chains, without feeling pressured, these same entities may not act as promptly. There should also be a limit to how many deadline extensions are given. The point of having a deadline is to make sure that they are met and improvements are made. Giving extensions defeats the purpose.”

The original deadlines, which now remain in effect until further notice, are as follows:

  • Dec. 12, 2017, for emissions standards, record keeping and labeling provisions.
  • Dec. 12, 2018, for import certification
  • Dec. 12, 2018, for the California Air Resources Board Third Party Certification transitional period.
  • And Dec. 12, 2023, for meeting the provisions applicable to laminated products.

EPA officials were not available for immediate comment.

However, the AHFA said that the receipt of adverse comments means that the amendment will be withdrawn and after all negative comments are reviewed, a new direct final rule will be issued and another comment period opened. Perdue said that, while he believes the agency will move “as fast as the process allows” to address the negative comments and issue a new direct rule on final compliance dates, he advised manufacturers to begin working toward meeting the original deadlines.

The AHFA said it has also petitioned the EPA to address other issues with the final rule, including exempting laminated products, allowing early labeling on compliant products, dropping a requirement for import certification and clarifying the handling of non-complying lots.

In testimony before regulatory officials in early May, Perdue called a provision that extends the certification beyond raw panels, encompassing an additional recertification requirement for fabricators of laminated products as “costly, redundant and burdensome,” adding that it also is a significant departure from the approach taken by CARB (California Air Resources Board) ATCM (Airborne Toxic Control Measure).

The non-exemption of laminated products, Perdue said, would create an estimated $210 million in new compliance costs for the industry and potentially impact more than one million manufacturing jobs in the home furnishings and related industries.

Thomas RussellThomas Russell | Associate Editor, Furniture Today

I'm Tom Russell and have worked at Furniture/Today since August 2003. Since then, I have covered the international side of the business from a logistics and sourcing standpoint. Since then, I also have visited several furniture trade shows and manufacturing plants in Asia, which has helped me gain perspective about the industry in that part of the world. As I continue covering the import side of the business, I look forward to building on that knowledge base through conversations with industry officials and future overseas plant tours. From time to time, I will file news and other industry perspectives online and, as always, welcome your response to these Web postings.

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