Hi, All! I'm not going to have much of a blog today because I'm working on NWFA commentary on the new EPA regulations.

The key issue under discussion now is the requirement for third-party certification of downstream producers. Currently under CARB (and soon under the EPA), companies producing plywood and particleboard and MDF/HDF need to be independently certified that their production's formaldehyde emissions remain under specified levels. At debate now is if engineered flooring will basically face a double certification burden-if companies producing engineered flooring will have to buy certified cores and then re-certify their own production.

One option being considered in response to that is setting a fixed emissions limit for all laminated products and then having companies self-certify that their product meets that level. They'll have to take appropriate steps to ensure that's true, and there will be penalties if they are found out of compliance.

A particular challenge is the issue of how to handle three-layer production. CARB originally excluded lumber core from the covered construction categories. The EPA has stated that they feel they are mandated by how Congress wrote the legislation to include lumber core. (Because the EPA is adding it, CARB is considering following suit.) If so, depending on how the final regulations come down, engineered flooring manufacturers using plywood or HDF will have to buy certified cores and will self-certify that their final product meets a specified emissions level. However, those producing any type of layered lumber core product will have to go through the costly certification process directly. There doesn't seem to be much of a way around this, although it makes no logical sense in the real world. (It came from Congress-should I really be expecting logic?)

This means a whole new group of companies that have never gone through CARB will be expected to suddenly figure out the certification system-build testing chambers, write manuals, etc. I hope we're given enough time.

There are plenty of other issues to comment on-ensuring confidentiality, protecting the small manufacturers, determining exactly what testing protocols are used and then there is plenty to cover on the label question!-but for the wood flooring industry, this lumber core twist is a big challenge, and I'm not sure how it's going to get resolved.

I would encourage everyone to go and post a short statement along the lines of:

I would like to encourage the EPA to:

  1. Exclude laminators and fabricators from the TPC certification system.
  2. To develop a de minimis level that would reduce the regulatory burden on small businesses producing custom flooring.
  3. Continue the exclusion of lumber core engineered flooring from the TPC certification system by defining it as a finished laminated product rather than as hardwood plywood. If the product is included, ensure sufficient time for these newly included manufacturers to join the system.
  4. Have a simplified label to reduce market confusion and to reduce labeling burdens on retailers and distributors.
  5. Ensure long-term mutual recognition between CARB/EPA for accreditation, testing, and record keeping/reporting.
  6. Protect confidential business information for all companies in the supply chain.
Comment now, please-they need to hear from you! Feel free to cut and paste!

OK, while you do that, I'll get back to typing…

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.'")