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Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. RADANOVICH. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

(Mr. RADANOVICH asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)

Mr. RADANOVICH. Madam Speaker, H.R. 4805, the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act, would set Federal formaldehyde emission standards for composite wood products based on the standards recently set by the State of California. Excessive exposure to formaldehyde can cause health problems, and health risks imposed by formaldehyde may indeed warrant a Federal emission standard for composite wood products. Although this bill has improved in several important respects since it was introduced, it still has a number of deficiencies that outweigh its benefits. Therefore, I urge all Members to vote against the bill.

Before summarizing the bill's principal deficiencies, let me note some of the changes that we were able to make on the Energy and Commerce Committee. The bill before the House today provides greater clarity regarding the actual emission standards that the EPA must promulgate and mandates ``sell-through'' provisions that ensure fair treatment for merchants seeking to sell inventory manufactured before the emission standards take effect.

Despite these improvements, the bill suffers from at least four critical deficiencies. First, the proponents of the bill failed to demonstrate that the emission standards themselves are reflective of the most recent scientific study and understanding. Second, the bill sets forth a theoretical national standard because it does not preempt State and local regulation. Third, the bill requires EPA to promulgate the standards without making a determination that they are technically feasible and that compliance is not prohibitively expensive. Finally, the bill requires EPA to regulate consumer products even though the CPSC appears better qualified for this task.

I will now address each of these four deficiencies in more detail. Excessive exposure to formaldehyde can cause health problems, and we are not here to debate that point. I am concerned that this bill's stated emission standards do not reflect the levels science is telling us are necessary to prevent harm. Instead, I understand the bill relies on the increasingly outdated risk assessment conducted by the State of California in issuing its own regulations. Further, as explained and called into question by Dr. Mel Anderson in his expert testimony provided at the March 18, 2010, hearing before the Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection Subcommittee, the California standards are much more restrictive than necessary to protect consumers from cancer risks.

Further, assuming the health risks posed by formaldehyde in composite wood products warrant some type of Federal emission standard, the bill raises concerns because it does not preempt State regulation. The preemption provisions in section 18 of the Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA, would not apply to these standards. Nothing in the bill would preclude States from imposing more stringent and conflicting standards than those mandated by the bill. States could create a patchwork of differing laws and requirements, thereby frustrating the stated goal of creating a uniform national standard for formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products. In addition, the EPA is currently considering a regulation under TSCA addressing the same issues addressed by this bill. If the EPA completes its current rulemaking process, any resulting formaldehyde standard would preempt State regulation as provided in TSCA.

The bill would also require the EPA to issue the mandated emission standards regardless of whether they ultimately prove technically feasible and reasonably affordable. Congress lacks experience regarding the workability of these standards in the real word. We have learned through our experience with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act that we should be very careful about mandating standards based on industry segment's confidence that it can comply with them. We learned the hard way that well-meaning bills can lead to unemployment for small manufacturers, and we should not repeat that mistake, with almost 10 percent unemployment.

This bill does not provide the EPA with any discretion if one or more of these standards proves technically not feasible to meet or if the high cost of compliance with the standard would prevent any manufacturers from remaining in business. It doesn't make sense to impose a standard which has not been ``road tested'' and that industry potentially cannot meet.

Moreover, the bill would provide for EPA rulemaking and enforcement of the emissions standards under the Toxic Substances Control Act, TSCA, even though the CPSC would be in a better position to handle the program under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act. Under TSCA, the EPA regulates industrial chemicals and mixtures rather than consumer products, while the CPSC regulates unsafe consumer products under a different statutory framework.

Given that the bill addresses supposedly unsafe consumer products and provides for emissions standards as well as labeling and testing requirements, the CPSC arguably is better situated than the EPA to handle this. The CPSC's more extensive experience and expertise on issues relating to consumer product safety, sell-through, labeling, and consumer product testing suggest that we should entrust this program to the CPSC instead of handing it off to EPA.

Had the above deficiencies been resolved more satisfactorily, this bill would more likely warrant passage. Unfortunately, I cannot support the bill in its current form and urge a ``no'' vote.

Madam Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.


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