AHFA Files Brief in Support of Extending Formaldehyde Rule Compliance Deadlines
December 15, 2017 – SAN FRANCISCO – Yesterday the American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA) filed a brief in support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a lawsuit that threatens to roll back the compliance timeline in the Formaldehyde Emission Standard for Composite Wood Products.
In October, the Sierra Club and a New Orleans-based group called A Community Voice filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco to require the EPA to adhere to original deadlines within the formaldehyde rule. AHFA’s brief, filed on behalf of the industry, supports the EPA’s proposed extension of the compliance deadlines and explains why a return to the original dates would “wreak havoc” on the industry’s supply chain.
EPA published the final formaldehyde standard in December 2016, with compliance required one year later. But in January 2017 the effective date of the rule was delayed by 60 days when newly elected President Trump directed the heads of all agencies to postpone the effective dates of recently published regulations. EPA subsequently took action to further delay the effective date of the rule until May 22, 2017, giving recently-arrived agency officials the opportunity to fully review the complex new rule.
Despite the later effective date, all compliance deadlines within the rule itself remained unchanged. AHFA and other stakeholders petitioned EPA in July 2017 to adjust the entire compliance timeline within the rule to reflect its new effective date of May 2017.
EPA agreed the modification was necessary and issued an amendment extending the compliance deadlines. But the amendment was derailed when the agency received negative comments on the proposed extension. While EPA worked to resolve the negative comments, A Community Voice and the Sierra Club filed their lawsuit claiming the EPA’s deadline extension was illegal.
In its brief – designed to advise the court of relevant, additional information – AHFA explains that the compliance deadline extension is necessary because both testing and labeling of compliant products by the original deadline was impossible due to unresolved technical oversights within the rule.
EPA has been dealing with these technical oversights with additional amendments. For example, the AHFA brief points out that the testing procedures outlined in the federal formaldehyde rule differ from those within California’s formaldehyde standard. This has severely limited the ability of third-party certifiers to approve compliant products across the globe. The EPA’s amendment to correct this issue was withdrawn just last week due to a single negative comment. As a result, companies with compliant products are still not able to demonstrate their compliance with approved testing methods. Getting this compliant product into the supply chain is essential for meeting other deadlines within the rule.
If the original December 17, 2017, compliance date went into effect, AHFA stated that the move would be “economically devastating” to its member companies and severely limit the available supply of goods to American consumers.