The federal formaldehyde law recently signed by President Obama will be in place by January, 2013. Hopefully you have read one of the many news stories that covered this major development in our industry. Here are some things you have not read about but are very likely to happen. Each may impact your business.

There could be changes in the rule making process.

The signed law has been sent to the Environmental Protection Agency for rule making. Rule making is the process by which legal language is converted into actionable requirements and procedures. In other words, what the law will require you to do. The law comes with guidelines and direction on what the rule should accomplish. However, there is latitude in the rule making process and you need to be prepared for what may happen.

For example, we are aware of at least one special interest group that will try to change the emission requirements which are at the heart of the rule. As you will recall, the law requires emission levels that mirror what was adopted in California. The Phase 2 or the final levels are extremely close to “background” levels or the amount of formaldehyde that is a natural component of wood itself.

Hardwood plywood has the lowest Phase 2 emission levels.

One possible change is to lower emission standards which would require a more complicated rule making process. Even though CARB is not affected by this new federal law, we understand the California Air Resources Board is looking at this possibility. However, we are most concerned with shifting from an emission level approach to an approach that would specify acceptable resin types (urea, phenol, etc.) or not allow any type of formaldehyde resin at all. The fact is that these resin systems have been utilized to meet Phase 2 CARB levels and ULEF (ultra low emitting formaldehyde) exemptions. They work and they are the most cost effective way to meet these extremely low emission level requirements. Even LEED is apparently recognizing the fact that the focus should be on emission levels, not the exclusion of any one resin type.

Editor's note: Roger Rutan is vice president, sales & marketing for Timber Products Company of Springfield, OR. In addition to managing Timber Products' sales team, he oversees all marketing strategies and plays a leadership role in the company’s many environmental initiatives ranging from Timber Products' forestlands, certification programs, product development, and customer education. Rutan is a member of the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association's Board of Directors and has been involved with the development and implementation of the CARB rule and the similar federal law recently passed.

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