The new president of the Composite Panel Association, Jackson Morrill is no stranger to the woodworking industry. He took time recently to share his thoughts with Woodworking Network on the challenges and opportunities ahead for the composite panel industry.
Woodworking Network: You recently took over as president of the Composite Panel Association. Please share a little information about yourself as well as your goals for the CPA and the industry as a whole.
Jackson Morrill: I am an environmental lawyer by training and have a background in advocacy, communications, coalition building and overall trade association management.
In my previous job I had the pleasure of working with CPA (www.compositepanel.org) and its members and allied organizations, so I was excited and honored to have the opportunity to take over the leadership of CPA. We are fortunate at CPA to have an engaged and active membership that has a strong commitment to the Association and its future success, and I hope to continue to build and strengthen those ties going forward. I am also personally looking forward to representing an industry that has a great story to tell on product diversity, performance, and sustainability.
My vision for CPA is to build on much of the good work done by CPA over its 55-year history but also to bring to the forefront some new areas of focus. Historically, CPA has been a leader in working closely with regulators and other stakeholders on formaldehyde emissions issues, and I will look to foster the existing relationships with EPA and the California Air Resources Board as they move forward with their regulatory programs. I think we can do more on the marketing front to highlight our industry’s product offerings and sustainability messages, including in particular our Eco-Certified Composite (ECC) standard. We are also in the process of developing with our membership a clear position on wood fiber supply that will guide our future engagement on issues like the shipment of wood pellets to Europe for energy production.
WWN: This year looks to be a busy one for the composite panel industry regarding pending regulatory/legislative changes. Give us a mid-year update: Where are we on key issues like formaldehyde and biomass/wood fiber?
Morrill: As of now, it appears that EPA is not likely to have a final formaldehyde emissions regulation in place until either very late in 2015, or more likely, early 2016. It is also our understanding that CARB is planning a stakeholder workshop to review proposed amendments to its formaldehyde emissions regulation to be held sometime in the fall of 2015. There have also been some staff retirements at CARB, which may cause some further delays.
With regard to the wood fiber issue, we are waiting to see how EPA will address carbon neutrality (if at all) in its final Clean Power Plan. EPA is still expected to release the rule sometime in August, and then states will have until the summer of 2016 to submit their implementation plans designed to meet the mandatory 30% CO2 reduction targets by 2030. However, some states may request extensions, which could extend the deadline one or two more years in those instances.
WWN: What other issues are on the radar?
Morrill: One issue that we are grappling with is how CPA can help our members address concerns over greater access to road and rail transport. We are also following closely California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control’s ongoing implementation of its Safer Consumer Products regulation, including the recently released three-year work plan. Additionally, while not a new issue, we are also constantly looking for ways to promote and gain acceptance of our products within the green building marketplace.
WWN: The CPA is actively involved in promoting the sustainability of composite panels, including the development of the Eco-Certified Composite (ECC) Sustainability Standard for manufacturers of panels as well as finished goods. Can you give us an update on the program? (i.e., the number of participants, the perceived benefits, etc.)
Morrill: We have excellent participation in the ECC program. There are currently 45 mills operated by 24 companies participating in the program, including 10 in Canada, 3 in Mexico and the remaining 32 in the US. Of these mills, one produces hardboard, 18 produce MDF and 26 produce particleboard. What is notable is that more than 90% of MDF and particleboard panels are produced in ECC-certified plants in the US and Canada. I believe that this level of participation reflects the industry’s perception of the program’s benefits. A quick review of company websites that participate in the ECC program reflects the fact that they believe in the program and are actively using it to market their green product offerings. It is now up to CPA to take it to the next level and work to gain greater acceptance of the program in green building and sustainability circles.
WWN: What is your assessment of the composite panel industry? Where do you see market growth or decline? What is the outlook for 2016?
Morrill: We are cautiously optimistic that the composite panel industry will have slow but steady growth in the coming years, based in part on recent strengthening of economic indicators, including an improved housing market and higher builder confidence. Panel shipments in the US and Canada were relatively flat in 2014 compared to 2013. CPA is forecasting a slight uptick for 2015, particularly in MDF. MDF shipments for the first five months of the year were up 2.2% over 2014 and particleboard is ahead 1.8% for the same period.
While industry consolidation had reduced operating capacity over the last three years, we are now seeing an uptick in particleboard and MDF capacity with an increase of 1.6% in the US and Canada over last year. In 2015 and continuing through 2016, we know of planned investment that will expand capacity throughout North America in existing mills. We also know of new MDF lines that will become operational next year in Mexico.
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