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Two recent rulings stir up some controversy

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In this issue, Christopher Hoffman uncovers the country’s “confusing quilt of VOC rules and jurisdictions” and suggests a national standard isn’t far behind. While our great bureaucracy contemplates, the EPA has proposed two rules aimed at “protecting the public from the risks associated with exposure to formaldehyde.”

The first proposal would implement formaldehyde emission standards and apply to hardwood plywood, MDF, particleboard and finished goods containing these products that are sold, supplied, offered for sale or manufactured (including imported) in the United States.

The second proposal would establish a framework for a third-party certification program to ensure that composite wood panel producers comply with the established emission limits.

The first rule includes provisions for testing requirements, product labeling, chain-of-custody documentation and other recordkeeping requirements. The second rule lets the EPA pick the third-part certifiers that would enforce the standards.

The rules have drawn the ire of the composite wood products industry.

“The single most costly and burdensome aspect of EPA’s proposed rule is the agency’s decision to disregard the California Air Resources Board, Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association and others on the treatment of laminated products,” Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association vice president Dick Titus said in a statement. “Congress gave EPA authority to adopt the approach of the California Airborne Toxic Control Measure. Instead, EPA has proposed to, in effect, ban adhesives containing any urea formaldehyde.

“KCMA is concerned about the impact this rule would have on thousands of small businesses, especially cabinetmakers and their component suppliers. Cabinetmakers, who veneer on a kitchen-by-kitchen basis, would be subject to the same regulation as six plywood manufacturers who account for 80 percent of the market and who produce hundreds of millions or billions of square feet of commodity products each year. [The California Air Resources Board] recognized the distinction between panel producers and fabricators. Under CARB rules, fabricators are required to use certified composite wood, maintain usage records and label their products as compliant, but unlike EPA’s proposal, there are no costly additional testing, certification, quality control requirements and paperwork burdens, many of which could be duplicative.”

In other news, hardwood plywood from China does not injure the U.S. industry and will not be subjected to antidumping duties, the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled Oct. 5.

In a 5-0 vote, the commission went against a Sept. 17 final determination by the U.S. Department of Commerce that Chinese hardwood plywood sold in the United States is subsidized at less than fair value.

The commission ruled that the U.S. wood industry is neither materially injured nor threatened with material injury by reason of imports of hardwood plywood from China.

The decision was applauded by the American Alliance for Hardwood Plywood, comprised of more than a dozen importers, distributors and manufacturers of hardwood plywood.

“The ITC ruling brings an end to a year-long campaign to impose severe and unprecedented antidumping and countervailing duty rates on imported Chinese hardwood plywood that would have resulted in severe disruptions to the kitchen and bath cabinet industry, eliminated thousands of jobs and shifted labor to overseas competitors,” the alliance said in a statement.

The Coalition for Fair Trade of Hardwood Plywood, a group of domestic manufacturers that filed an unfair trade petition in September 2012, said it was deeply disappointed with the ruling.

“We do not believe that the ITC’s determination is reflective of the facts presented in this investigation or the realities of the marketplace,” coalition counsel Jeff Levin said in a statement.

This article originally appeared in the December 2013 issue.

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