One of the things I've been trying to figure out as I go over the proposed new EPA regulations for formaldehyde in engineered flooring are the penalties associated with EPA violations-they aren't specifically spelled out as part of the proposed regulations because the EPA already has a system in place. I'm still trying to work it all out and I'm getting conflicting interpretations from different people, but what I've found suggests we should all be scared.

First, the EPA can enforce this through both civil and criminal prosecution. Depending on what they can prove you've done, they can confiscate material, force the disposal/destruction of material, fine you or your company, shut you down or throw you in jail. Note that the strictest enforcement will go against manufacturers, but they have very strict recordkeeping requirements too. I found extensive references on the EPA website to violations of recordkeeping resulting in fines in the tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

See, we're now looking at identifying composite wood products as a toxic chemical product. Yes, the wood products you love are now governed by the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). And Section 8 of TSCA "authorizes EPA to require persons engaged in the manufacture (manufacture includes import for purposes of TSCA), processing and distribution in commerce of chemical substances to keep certain records and report certain information."

I found that the fines for record keeping violations alone ranged from $200-$37,500 PER DAY.

But hey, don't worry, they have caps on most types of violations! And even better, you get a discount if you turn yourself in.

The spreadsheet I reviewed compared an example where the EPA found the problem vs. when the company found the problem and self-reported. The self-reporting company got a 25 percent reduction for voluntary disclosure and 25 percent additional reduction for disclosing immediately. Under the example provided, the fine was reduced from $34,000 to $17,000. That was for a paperwork violation, folks. The product was fine-the paperwork was incomplete.

Manufacturing violations are all the news-Google EPA enforcement and skim the headlines: $1.4 million here, $25 million there. Perhaps you've seen this headline: "EPA Levied a Record $252 Million in Fines in 2012." This is nothing to fool around with, folks. We're about to have our industry governed by a very heavy hitter. Pay attention, please.

And participate in the process by going here.

Elizabeth Baldwin has over 20 years of international wood sourcing experience. Very widely traveled, her résumé's "Special Skills" section includes "the ability to eat anything from raw horse to deep-fried scorpion." She serves as Metropolitan Hardwood Flooring's (metrofloors.com) ECO (Environmental Compliance Officer) and deals daily with the "green alphabet soup" of today's industry: FSC, CARB, LEED, and much more. She blogs for Hardwood Floors on all things green (and, as she says, " 'grey' and 'blue' and almost every color except 'black and white.' Nothing in this world is black and white, particularly not 'green issues.'")