Ms. Sylvia Mathews Burwell
Director, Office of Management and Budget
725 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20503
Re: Public Law 111-199
Docket ID EPA-HQ-OPPT-2012-0018; EPA-HQ-OPPT-2011-0380
I am (your name), a (furniture importer / furniture manufacturer / furniture retailer / professional sales representative) doing business in (location). My business employs (# of employees) people.
I sell furniture. Much of this furniture contains composite wood panels, such as MDF (medium-density fiberboard), particleboard and plywood. As you may be aware, the U.S. EPA has recently published proposed rules for implementing the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act that will create enormous burden for my business as written.
Consumers buy furniture from my business to add comfort and style to their homes and businesses. A primary consideration of comfort is safety. With regard to formaldehyde in composite wood products, finished furniture consistently represents one of the most impressive records of supporting and decreasing consumer exposure to formaldehyde in the global marketplace. The sealing and lacquering process creates two primary benefits in the furniture I sell:
- It makes the furniture durable, easy to care for and attractive, by adding a finish that seals the surfaces, preventing liquids and moisture from penetrating and damaging the materials underneath
- The barrier created not only protects and keeps liquids out, it has also been proven to inhibit the release of formaldehyde from within
The law was written with the intent to implement nationwide California state law (CA 93120), which regulates the manufacture of composite panels. The California law requires that composite panel manufacturers produce and certify their MDF, particleboard and plywood to the most stringent formaldehyde emissions standards in the world. This law also requires furniture manufacturers to buy and use certified panels to make their furniture.
Knowing that my furniture products are made of certified, low-emission panel components, coupled with the proven benefits of laminating, sealing and lacquering brings me confidence that the emissions in the furniture I sell provide the safety and peace of mind that my consumers expect. The increased costs in importing and manufacturing will put U.S. manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage in the global marketplace, further reducing their ability to export goods due to the increase in testing, certification and recordkeeping costs.
The economic analysis of this rule indicates that assumptions were made by the EPA that significantly understate the costs and impacts of this rule. As one example, the EPA chose to survey a very small (eight) group of hardwood plywood producers, rather than the actual furniture manufacturers and similar laminators, to determine the scope and practices of those who laminate over certified panels. Additionally, it made the assumption that nearly all of the impacted regulatory community could and would simply change laminating adhesives based on the cost savings its exemption would create. This assumption does not reflect the feasibility or low probability of such a switch. Additionally, the EPA has not provided empirical data demonstrating the NAF resins used in lamination produce a lower emitting finished product when compared against the wide variety of adhesive technologies currently in use.
To add additional concern, the EPA exercised a long-dormant opportunity to define the word "article" within TSCA 13 to include furniture within its definition. Simply stated, this overreach now classifies the products I sell every day as toxic substances.
As a primary gatekeeper in the rulemaking process, OMB is responsible for ensuring that both Executive Orders 12866 and 13563 are enforced. Among other things, these requirements ensure that agencies are proposing rulemaking tailored to impose the least burdensome requirements on businesses, individuals, and society. The EPA has not shown how the proposed rules will further reduce the formaldehyde emissions of the products I am currently selling. The cost-benefit published in the implementing rule shows that the rule currently costs as much as $79 million more than the estimated benefits. While justifying the gap in cost-benefit analysis with "unquantified" benefits, the analysis published indicates that the agency could not find empirical evidence or justification for the rules' costs.
I ask that you use your position within the Office of Management and Budget to:
- Direct EPA staff responsible for the implementing and certifying rules under the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act to exempt all laminated products, including hardwood and woody grass-veneered products, as intended by Congress based on the consistent reduction in emissions that all of these products demonstrate when finished
- Remove or re-define "article" to maintain the integrity and heightened security of TSCA Section 13 to allow it to be used appropriately to protect Americans from toxic substances, without misrepresenting entire categories of products that simply do not belong within these classifications
- Appropriately justify the cost of this major rule based on research, stakeholder input, technical feasibility and current practices of the regulated community.
We look forward to seeing the hallmarks of your leadership within the rulemaking process.
(State), (ZIP code)
Howard Shelanski, Administrator, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
Danielle Jones, Policy Analyst, Natural Resource Environment Branch, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
Cindy Wheeler, EPA
Lynn Vendinello, EPA