The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a direct final rule that would extend compliance deadlines in its Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products. While this direct final rule does not address the multiple questions and conflicts in the substance of the rule, it does provide additional time for these issues to be resolved. The deadlines are proposed to be extended as follows:

  • Emission standards, recordkeeping, and labeling provisions would take effect March 22, 2018;
  • Import certification provisions would take effect March 22, 2019;
  • The conclusion of the transition period for CARB Third-Party Certifiers (TPCs) would be March 22, 2019; and
  • Laminated product producer provisions would take effect March 22, 2024 (although laminated product producers would still be required to comply with applicable fabricator provisions beginning March 22, 2018).

The Agency's purposes in extending these dates are to add regulatory flexibility for regulated entities, reduce compliance burdens, and help prevent disruptions to supply chains.

There is a 15-day comment period on the rule. If the Agency does not receive any adverse comments, then the direct final rule will become effective.  If the Agency does receive a relevant, adverse comment, then it will withdraw the direct final rule and proceed with an identical proposed rule through the normal rulemaking process.  Given the non-controversial nature of the amendment, the Agency stated it "does not expect to receive any adverse comments."

The extensions are a step in the right direction but do not appear to fully alleviate supply chain concerns. In particular, EPA has not yet issued guidance with respect to labeling imports that are produced prior to the effective date of the rule’s labeling provisions (and thus not required to be labeled by foreign panel producers or fabricators), but imported on or after the effective date of those provisions (and thus required to be labeled upon reaching US soil, because they are considered to have been “manufactured” on the date of import).

In the meantime, businesses affected by the rule should be planning processes for compliance with the applicable requirements.