New EPA Formaldehyde Emission Standard for Wood Products

August 01, 2016

The EPA recently moved to reduce exposure to formaldehyde vapors from certain wood products produced domestically or imported into the United States. The agency worked with the California Air Resources Board to help ensure the final national rule is consistent with California requirements for composite wood products.

“We are carrying out important measures laid out by Congress to protect the public from harmful exposure of this widely used chemical found in homes and workplaces”, said Jim Jones, EPA’s assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “We have worked with the state of California as a partner to help ensure consistency in our requirements. The new rule will level the playing field for domestic manufacturers who have a high rate of compliance with the California standard and will ensure that imported products not subject to California’s requirements will meet the new standard and thus, not contain dangerous formaldehyde vapors.”

The Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products Act of 2010 established emission standards for formaldehyde from composite wood products and directed EPA to finalize a rule on implementing and enforcing a number of provisions covering composite wood products.

One year after the rule is published, composite wood products that are sold, supplied, offered for sale, manufactured, or imported in the United States will need to be labeled as TSCA Title VI compliant. These products include: hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard, and particleboard, as well as household and other finished goods containing these products.

EPA is also setting testing requirements to ensure that products comply with those standards, establishing eligibility requirements for third-party certifiers, and establishing eligibility requirements for accreditation bodies to be recognized by EPA that will accredit the third-party certifiers. The new rule includes certain exemptions for products made with ultra-low formaldehyde or no-added formaldehyde resins and new requirements for product labeling, recordkeeping, and enforcement provisions.

Formaldehyde is used as an adhesive in a wide range of wood products, such as some furniture, flooring, cabinets, bookcases and building materials including plywood and wood panels. Exposure to formaldehyde can cause adverse health effects including eye, nose and throat irritation, other respiratory symptoms, and cancer.

New Exclusions for Solvent Recycling and Hazardous Secondary Materials

EPA’s new final on the definition of solid waste creates new opportunities for waste recycling outside the scope of the full hazardous waste regulations. This, which went into effect on July 13, 2015, streamlines the regulatory burden for wastes that are legitimately recycled.

The first of the two exclusions is an exclusion from the definition of solid waste for high-value solvents transferred from one manufacturer to another for the purpose of extending the useful life of the original solvent by keeping the materials in commerce to reproduce a commercial grade of the original solvent product.

The second, and more wide-reaching of the two exclusions, is a revision of the existing hazardous secondary material recycling exclusion. This exclusion allows you to recycle, or send off-site for recycling, virtually any hazardous secondary material. Provided you meet the terms of the exclusion, the material will no longer be hazardous waste.

Learn how to take advantage of these exclusions at Environmental Resource Center’s live webcast on July 8 where you will learn:

  • Which of your materials qualify under the new exclusions
  • What qualifies as a hazardous secondary material
  • Which solvents can be remanufactured, and which cannot
  • What is a tolling agreement
  • What is legitimate recycling
  • Generator storage requirements
  • What documentation you must maintain
  • Requirements for off-site shipments
  • Training and emergency planning requirements
  • If it is acceptable for the recycler to be outside the US

EPA Says Aircraft Emissions Contribute to Climate Change Endangering Public Health and the Environment

EPA recently finalized a determination under the Clean Air Act that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from certain types of aircraft engines contribute to the pollution that causes climate change and endangers Americans’ health and the environment. The findings are for carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), all of which contribute to GHG pollution that represents the largest driver of human-caused climate change. These particular GHGs come primarily from engines used on large commercial jets.

“Addressing pollution from aircraft is an important element of U.S. efforts to address climate change. Aircraft are the third largest contributor to GHG emissions in the U.S. transportation sector, and these emissions are expected to increase in the future,” said Janet McCabe, EPA’s Acting Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation. “EPA has already set effective GHG standards for cars and trucks and any future aircraft engine standards will also provide important climate and public health benefits.”

The agency is not issuing emissions standards for aircraft engines in this action. The final endangerment and contribution findings for aircraft engine GHG emissions are an important step that EPA must take prior to adopting domestic GHG engine standards. EPA anticipates that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) will formally adopt its environmental committee’s February 2016 agreement on international aircraft CO2 standards in March 2017. EPA anticipates moving forward on standards that would be at least as stringent as ICAO’s standards.

The rulemaking process for aircraft GHG emissions will provide opportunities for industry, NGOs, and other interested parties to provide their input through public review and comment.

In 2009, EPA issued similar findings regarding GHG emissions from new cars and light trucks. The agency determined that those vehicles contribute to GHG pollution that threatens Americans’ health and welfare by leading to long-lasting changes in our climate that can have a range of negative effects today and in the future. Since then, the science on human-induced climate change has strengthened, further supporting the recent final determination.

The recent findings support the goals of the President’s Climate Action Plan to reduce emissions from large sources of carbon pollution. U.S. aircraft emit roughly 12% of GHG emissions from the U.S. transportation sector and 29% of GHG emissions from all aircraft globally. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA consults with the Federal Aviation Administration as it develops aircraft engine emissions standards. By law, any standards EPA sets must not cause a significant increase in noise or adversely affect safety.

The recent findings do not apply to small piston-engine planes (the type of plane often used for recreational purposes), or to military aircraft.

Proposed Amendments Pertaining to DOT-Specification Cylinders Issued

The Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has proposed to amend the Hazardous Materials Regulations to revise certain requirements applicable to the manufacture, use, and requalification of DOT-specification cylinders. PHMSA is taking this action in response to petitions for rulemaking submitted by stakeholders and to agency review of the compressed gas cylinders regulations. Specifically, PHMSA is proposing to incorporate by reference or update the references to several Compressed Gas Association publications, amend the filling requirements for compressed and liquefied gases, expand the use of salvage cylinders, and revise and clarify the manufacture and requalification requirements for cylinders.

Comments must be submitted by September 26, 2016. To the extent possible, PHMSA will consider late-filed comments as a final rule is developed.

EPA Proposes to Require TSDFs to Pay Fees to Cover Costs of Electronic Manifests

Congress has required EPA to collect fees to cover the costs of the pending electronic hazardous waste manifest system. Therefore, EPA has proposed a user fee methodology for the forthcoming e-Manifest system. After the implementation date for the e-Manifest system, certain users of the azardous waste manifest would be required to pay a prescribed fee for each electronic and paper manifest they use and submit to the system in order for EPA to recover its costs of developing and operating the national e-Manifest system. Under the current proposal, the hazardous waste treatment, storage, or disposal facility would be responsible for paying the fee.

EPA has also proposed several amendments to the regulations governing the use of electronic hazardous waste manifests and the completion of manifests. Comments must be received on or before 26 September 2016. The point of contact is Richard LaShier, Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery, 703-308-8796,, or Bryan Groce, Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery, 703-308-8750,

California to Warn Consumers of BPA in Canned Food and Beverage Containers

California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has proposed an amendment to the Proposition 65 warning requirements for bisphenol A (BPA). On April 18, 2016, OEHHA implemented an emergency regulation for BPA, amending section 25603.3 of Title 27 of the California Code of Regulations to provide a safe harbor warning method and content for exposures to BPA from canned foods and beverages sold at retail level. Because emergency regulations are only valid for 180 days, OEHHA is proposing a regular rulemaking process to establish a continuance of this emergency regulation. This new regulation will sunset on December 30, 2017 unless reenacted. This proposal takes into account all comments received on the emergency regulation.

On May 11, 2015, BPA was added to the Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause reproductive toxicity. The listing is for the female reproductive toxicity endpoint. BPA is an industrial chemical used to make polycarbonate, a hard, clear plastic, which is used in many consumer products. BPA is also used to make epoxy resins, which act as a protective lining on the inside of some metal-based food and beverage cans, as well as lids for glass bottles and jars.

This new regulation will further the “right-to-know” purposes of the statute and give more specificity for the content of safe harbor warnings for BPA, thus offering compliance assistance for those businesses that are required to provide warnings.

A public hearing on this proposed regulatory amendment is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. on September 12, 2016 in the Sierra Hearing Room at the CalEPA Headquarters building 1001 I Street in Sacramento. The hearing will also be webcast.

Send e-mail comments to Please include “BPA Warnings” in the subject line. Hard-copy comments may be mailed, faxed, or delivered in person to the appropriate address below.

Monet Vela
Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment
P. O. Box 4010
Sacramento, California 95812-4010
Telephone: 916-322-0493

Written comments concerning this proposed regulatory action must be received by OEHHA by 5:00 p.m. on September 26, 2016. All comments will be posted on the OEHHA website at the close of the public comment period. Because OEHHA is subject to the California Public Records Act and other laws that require the release of certain information upon request, if you provide comments, your name, address and e-mail may be available to third parties.

Minnesota Completes 44 Environmental Enforcement Cases in Second Quarter of 2016

In its ongoing efforts to promote environmental compliance, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) concluded 44 enforcement cases in 32 counties throughout Minnesota during the second quarter of 2016. Penalties from all 44 cases totaled more than $480,000.

Environmental enforcement investigations often take several months, and in highly complex cases more than a year. Although, in rare instances, they can involve courts, they are most often negotiated settlements where the goal is compliance with environmental rules. Fines issued are targeted to match the environmental harm, economic advantage gained or environmental corrective actions.

In addition to these 44 recently completed cases, the MPCA also has 67 ongoing enforcement investigations, 17 of which were opened as new cases during the second quarter of 2016. Not all investigations lead to fines or other official action.

Imposing monetary penalties is only part of the MPCA’s enforcement process. Agency staff continue to provide assistance, support, and information on the steps and tools necessary to achieve compliance for any company, individual, or local government that requests it.

Click here for a list of enforcement actions.

EPA Highlights Importance of Updated Standards to Protect the Health of New Jersey Farmworkers

EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck was joined by Denny Doyle from Atlantic Blueberry Company; Assistant Commissioner of Compliance and Enforcement Ray Bukowski from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection; and New Jersey Farm Loan Manager Ellen Schmidt from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to discuss stronger protections for agricultural workers and pesticide handlers required by the recently updated Worker Protection Standard. EPA finalized new federal regulations in September 2015, which will go into effect in January 2017. Regional Administrator Enck visited the Atlantic Blueberry Farm in Hammonton, New Jersey, to focus on how the new standards will help New Jersey farmworkers.

“There are approximately 13,000 farmworkers in the state of New Jersey, and every farmworker deserves a safe and healthy work environment,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck. “EPA is committed to reducing the exposure of toxic pesticides to farmworkers and their families.”

EPA’s Worker Protection Standard rule provides stronger protections for the nation’s two million agricultural workers and handlers working on farms, forests, nurseries, and greenhouses. The updated EPA regulation strengthens requirements for training, notification, pesticide safety, and hazard communication, as well as the use of personal protective equipment and the availability of supplies for routine washing and emergency decontamination. The revisions announced in September 2016 were the first changes made to the rule in 24 years.

These provisions will help ensure farmworkers nationwide receive annual safety training; that children under the age of 18 are prohibited from handling pesticides; and that workers are aware of the protections they are afforded under the recent action and have the tools needed to protect themselves and their families from pesticide exposure. Every farm will need to comply with the new standard. In New Jersey, this standard will be enforced by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, with technical support from the EPA.

For workers and handlers of pesticide products on agricultural establishments, EPA will require:

  • The minimum age for pesticide handlers and early-entry workers has been established at 18 years of age. The minimum age in New Jersey was previously 16 years old. Although members of owner’s immediate family are exempt from this and most other requirements of the WPS.
  • Annual mandatory training for farmworkers so they can be informed on how to protect themselves and their families from pesticide exposures. Previously, trainings happened once every five years in New Jersey.
  • Each farmworker must now be provided with at least 1 gallon of water at the beginning of each work period and handlers must get 3 gallons of water for decontamination. No quantities of water were specifically spelled out previously.
  • Farmworkers will now be trained on safety before they go out into the field to work. Previously, farms had up to five days to offer the training.
  • Content and availability of hazard communications need to be posted.
  • Employers must now provide respirator and fit testing, training and medical evaluation that conforms to OSHA standards for any handler required to wear any respirator by the labeling. Recordkeeping of completion of fit test, training, and medical evaluation is now also required.
  • Each farm must now provide a system capable of delivering .4 gallons of water for eye washing per minute for 15 minutes, or 6 gallons of water able to flow for 15 minutes if handlers use products requiring eye protection or use a pressurized closed system.

Additionally, EPA is making improvements to the training programs including limiting pesticide exposure to farmworker families. By better protecting agricultural workers, EPA anticipates fewer pesticide exposure incidents among farmworkers and their family members. Fewer incidents mean a healthier workforce and avoiding lost wages and medical bills.

Nevada Department of Transportation Fined for Stormwater Violations

The U.S. Department of Justice, the EPA, and the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection (NDEP) have reached an agreement with the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) to resolve alleged violations of NDOT’s stormwater permit. The agreement requires NDOT to establish a stormwater management program to control pollutants entering waters, spend $200,000 on an environmental project that will provide real-time water quality data to the public and pay $60,000 each to EPA and NDEP.

“Nevada’s Governor Sandoval has shown great leadership by investing in the newly-established stormwater program,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Water is a vital resource in the arid West, and this agreement will help preserve and protect Nevada’s rivers and streams.”

Under the federal Clean Water Act, NDOT is required to minimize pollutants in runoff from its operations to lakes and rivers throughout the state. Stormwater runoff from unpaved areas, paved streets and maintenance yards contains contaminants such as sediments, trash, chemicals, and oils that can flow into waterways, resulting in environmental damage.

EPA discovered the alleged violations of NDOT’s stormwater permit during a 2011 audit. Nevada subsequently passed a state law directed at minimizing stormwater impacts and invested $13 million to establish an NDOT stormwater division staffed with 59 full time employees dedicated to reducing the impacts of stormwater pollution. In addition, the state has spent $7.6 million to purchase needed equipment, such as street sweepers, and has another $15 million earmarked for projects this year.

NDOT will spend $200,000 on a supplemental environmental project to upgrade water quality monitoring devices that will post online continuous monitoring data available to the public. This will provide NDOT, local governments, and the public access to real-time water quality information to help protect Nevada’s waterways.

The settlement also requires NDOT to develop a public outreach program, digitized statewide maps indicating where NDOT discharges stormwater and a plan detailing steps NDOT is taking to reduce the discharge of pollutants from its operations.

The consent decree for this settlement was lodged in the federal district court by the U.S. Department of Justice and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.

New York Man Charged with Allegedly Discharging Polluted Water into Ley Creek

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Department of Environmental Conservation Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos recently announced the arrest of Michael Jones, 44, of Skaneateles, following the unsealing of an indictment charging Jones and his company, Coast Transportation and Recycling, LLC (“Coast”), with multiple environmental law crimes, including discharging polluted water into Ley Creek and failing to obtain appropriate state regulatory permits.

An Onondaga County Grand Jury handed up a ten-count indictment charging Jones and Coast, an automobile salvage and scrap recycling facility located at 15 Dippold Avenue in the Town of Salina, with violations of the New York State Environmental Conservation Law (“ECL”). The charges include a Class E felony for allegedly knowingly discharging pollutants without first obtaining a New York State Pollution Discharge Elimination System (“SPDES”) permit. The Honorable Thomas J. Miller arraigned Jones on the indictment in Onondaga County Court and released him on his own recognizance. The defendant is next scheduled to appear in court on August 31, 2016.

“My office will continue to protect New York’s waterways from illegal forms of pollution,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Protecting our state’s natural resources is essential to safeguard both the public health and local economies, and those who break the law will be held accountable.”

These charges are the result of an investigation conducted by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

“The actions of the defendant in this case show a total disregard for the environment and for the safety of the community around Ley Creek,” said Commissioner Seggos. “I applaud the work of our Environmental Conservation Officers and the Attorney General’s office in ensuring that the state’s laws are enforced and its environment protected.”

According to statements made by the prosecutor at arraignment, DEC’s investigation revealed that in February 2010, two underground storage tanks were removed from the Coast facility. These tanks, which contained fuel oil, had leaked and contaminated the surrounding soil. More than 500 tons of petroleum contaminated soil was ultimately excavated from the areas surrounding the underground storage tanks and stored on Coast’s property. According to the prosecutor, the PCS was not removed from the Coast facility until October 2014, and neither Coast nor Jones ever applied for or obtained the necessary permit. The ECL and DEC regulations allow the temporary storage of petroleum contaminated soil (“PCS”) on site, but only for a period of 60 days. Storage of PCS for longer than 60 days constitutes the operation of a solid waste management facility and requires a permit issued by DEC. Solid waste management facilities are subject to strict operational and closure requirements to avoid the adverse impacts to public health and the environment associated with solid waste.

Also according to statements made by prosecutor at arraignment, DEC’s investigation further revealed that on May 15 and 19, 2011, liquid runoff from the soil pile flowed across the Coast property and into a storm water drain on Dippold Avenue, which ultimately discharged into a tributary of Ley Creek. Laboratory testing by DEC revealed that the liquid flowing into the stormwater drain contained the hazardous substances benzene, toluene, ethyl-benzene, and xylene.

Additionally, on September 18, 2012, Jones allegedly directed a Coast employee to set up and operate an electric pump to discharge stormwater that had accumulated in the Coast parking lot into another storm water drain, which also ultimately discharged into a tributary of Ley Creek. Laboratory testing by DEC revealed that this storm water contained motor oil. Jones and Coast allegedly discharged the oil laden storm water without having obtained a SPDES permit or having a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan in place, both of which are required by the ECL.

The indictment filed in Onondaga County Court charges Jones and his company with one felony and nine misdemeanor environmental law crimes. The felony charge carries a prison sentence of up to four years in jail and a maximum fine of $75,000 per day. The misdemeanor charges include one count of operating an unpermitted solid waste management facility, which carries a maximum jail sentence of up to one year and a maximum fine of $37,500 per day, and eight counts of Endangering Public Health, Safety or the Environment in the Fourth Degree, which carries a maximum jail sentence of up to one year and a maximum fine of $37,500.

The DEC previously filed an administrative enforcement proceeding against both Jones and Coast in June 2011, related to improper dismantling of vehicles at the yard. An Administrative Law Judge found that both Jones and Coast had failed to conduct proper “fluid draining, removal and collection activities” at the Coast facility and had intentionally released fluids and discharged “petroleum onto the ground at the facility.” Jones and Coast were assessed a civil penalty of thirty thousand dollars ($30,000).

The charges against Jones and Coast are merely accusations and they are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

Cement Manufacturer Cemex to Reduce Harmful Air Pollution from Five Plants

The EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced a settlement with Cemex, Inc., under which the company will invest approximately $10 million to cut emissions of harmful air pollution at five of its cement manufacturing plants in Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Texas to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act. Under the consent decree lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Cemex will also pay a $1.69 million civil penalty, conduct energy audits at the five plants, and spend $150,000 on energy efficiency projects to mitigate the effects of past excess emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from its facilities.

“This settlement requires Cemex to use state of the art technology to reduce harmful air pollution, improving public health in vulnerable communities across the South and Southeast,” said Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “EPA is committed to tackling clean air violations at the largest sources, cutting the pollutants that cause respiratory illnesses like asthma.”

“The cement sector is a significant source of air pollution posing real health risks to the communities where they reside, including vulnerable communities across the U.S. who deserve better air quality than they have gotten over the years,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This agreement will require Cemex to pay a penalty and install important pollution controls to achieve reductions in harmful air emissions, thereby making Cemex a better neighbor to local residents.”

The five Cemex facilities produce Portland cement, a key ingredient in concrete, mortar, and stucco, and are located in Demopolis, Alabama; Louisville, Kentucky; Knoxville, Tennessee; and New Braunfels and Odessa, Texas. The Knox County, Tennessee, and Louisville, Kentucky, air pollution control authorities participated in this settlement.

Cemex is required to install pollution control technology that will reduce emissions of NOx and establish strict limits for sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions, which will improve air quality in local communities. Cemex will install and continuously operate a selective non-catalytic reduction system for controlling NOx at the five plants and meet emission limits that are consistent with the current best available control technology for NOx. EPA estimates this will result in NOx emissions reductions of over 4,000 tons per year. Each facility will also be subject to strict SO2 emission limits.

NOx and SO2, two key pollutants emitted from cement plants, have numerous adverse effects on human health and are significant contributors to acid rain, smog, and haze. The pollutants are converted in the air into fine particles of particulate matter that can cause severe respiratory and cardiovascular impacts, and premature death. Reducing these harmful air pollutants will benefit the communities located near the Cemex plants, particularly communities disproportionately impacted by environmental risks and vulnerable populations, including children.

This settlement is part of EPA’s National Enforcement Initiative to control harmful emissions from large sources of pollution, which includes cement manufacturing plants, under the Clean Air Act’s Prevention of Significant Deterioration requirements. The total combined SO2 and NOx emission reductions secured from cement plant settlements under this initiative will exceed 75,000 tons each year once all the required pollution controls have been installed and implemented.

The settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.

Washington State Fines Volkswagen $176 Million for Violating Clean Air Laws

The Washington Department of Ecology has fined automaker Volkswagen $176 million for installing illegal software on many of its diesel vehicles to cheat and falsify emissions tests. These diesel vehicles emitted up to 40 times the permitted levels of nitrogen oxides—a harmful air pollutant.

“Volkswagen’s actions violated our state’s air quality laws and put people’s health at risk,” said Ecology Director Maia Bellon. “This has caused irreparable damage to the publics’ trust.”

Volkswagen installed sophisticated software designed to turn on a vehicle’s full suite of emissions controls only when it detected that the car’s emissions were being tested, and turn them off during normal driving. This deceitful action released harmful amounts of nitrogen oxides into the air.

Exposure to these pollutants is linked with a range of serious health effects, including increased asthma attacks, and contributes to premature death from respiratory-related or cardiovascular disease. Children, the elderly, and people with pre-existing respiratory diseases are particularly vulnerable to these pollutants.

The penalty holds the automaker accountable for the environmental damage caused by the more than 21,000 vehicles registered in Washington with the fraudulent software.

The $176 million penalty is based on per-vehicle violations, and once collected will be held in an air pollution control account that is used to reduce air pollution in Washington.

Volkswagen now has 30 days to appeal the penalty to the Washington Pollution Control Hearings Board.

In a separate consumer settlement, Washington and 42 other states, plus the District of Columbia, are part of a multistate investigation into Volkswagen’s actions. The investigation began after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued Volkswagen notice that it had violated the federal Clean Air Act in September 2015. Since then, Volkswagen has admitted to the allegations and reached a $14.7 billion settlement with the EPA. The company agreed to buy back vehicles and fund nationwide projects to reduce air pollution from vehicles, including developing infrastructure for electric vehicle charging stations.

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