West Virginia Public Broadcasting Timber Series

Sometimes, we find news articles that aren’t always about regulations, legality, or chemicals. West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with funding from The Myles Family foundation, have created a series of articles and broadcasts related to the timber industry in West Virginia. The series can be found here. IIt includes lumber, flooring and other parts of the timber industry.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Benchmark International Family to Yours!

Benchmark International would like to wish each and everyone a happy and safe Thanksgiving!


Photo by: VXLA

Alphabet Soup

In the forest products industry and beyond, there are a lot of acronyms that we see used over and over again. We use them to save space, talk quickly about a subject, or simply because we know what they mean, but not what they stand for. Below is a small list of acronyms that are seen most often and what they stand for:

CAR– Corrective Action Report

CARBCalifornia Air Resources Board

COB– Close of Business

COC or CoC– Chain of Custody

CWP– Composite Wood Product

ASTMAmerican Section of the International Association for Testing Materials

EPAU.S. Environmental Protection Agency

FSCForest Stewardship Council

HWPW-CC– Hardwood Plywood Composite Core

HWPW-VC– Hardwood Plywood Veneer Core

ISOInternational Organization of Standardization

JASJapanese Agricultural Standard

SFISustainable Forestry Initiative

TPC– Third Party Certifier

TSCAToxic Substance Control Act

What acronyms do you use? Email us your acronyms to add to the list.

Formaldehyde Rule Lawsuit Filed

A lawsuit was filed on Halloween (31 October 2017) by the Sierra Club and A Community Voice, represented by Earthjustice, against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over the delay in implementing the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) Title VI for formaldehyde in composite wood products. The suit alleges that the EPA is unlawfully delaying the implementation of the rules.


You can read the court filing here.

EPA Updates Voluntary Consensus Standards in the Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products Rule

From the EPA:

EPA is publishing a direct final rule to update several voluntary consensus standards listed at 40 CFR § 770.99 and incorporated by reference in the Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products rule.

These updates apply to emission testing methods and regulated composite wood product construction characteristics. Several of those voluntary consensus standards (i.e. technical specifications for products or processes developed by standards-setting bodies) were updated, withdrawn, and/or superseded through the normal course of business by these various bodies to take into account new information, technology, and methodology.

Additionally, this direct final rule corrects the rule at 40 CFR § 770.20(b) by allowing the formaldehyde emissions mill quality control test methods to correlate to either the ASTM E1333-14 test method or, upon a showing of equivalence, the ASTM D6007-14 test method. This correlation was inadvertently omitted from the original final rule. The correction aligns the mill quality control testing requirements with the California Air Resources Board standards allowing mill quality control tests to be correlated to the less expensive ASTM D6007-14 test method.

In the event that EPA receives an adverse comment on the direct final rule and must publish a proposal, EPA also published a companion notice of proposed rule making to update the voluntary consensus standards. If EPA receives no adverse comment on the direct final rule or proposed rule, then the Agency will take no further action on the proposed rule and the direct final rule will become effective 45 days after publication of the direct final rule. If EPA receives relevant, adverse comment, then the Agency will withdraw the direct final rule and proceed with the proposed rule through the normal rulemaking process.

Read the direct final rule to update the voluntary consensus standards which is up for public inspection in the Federal Register.

Also note that on September 25, 2017, EPA issued a final rule to extend the compliance dates for the December 12, 2016 final Formaldehyde Emissions Standards for Composite Wood Products Rule. Read more about this action on EPA’s website.

Visit the EPA’s formaldehyde website for additional information on TSCA Title VI final rule.

Lacey Act Implementation Plan: De Minimis Exception and Composite Articles

USDA/APHIS RIN: 0579-AD44 Publication ID: Update 2017
Title: Lacey Act Implementation Plan: De Minimis Exception and Composite Articles

The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 amended the Lacey Act to provide, among other things, that importers submit a declaration at the time of importation for certain plants and plant products. The declaration requirements of the Lacey Act became effective on December 15, 2008, and enforcement of those requirements is being phased in. We are proposing an exception to the declaration requirements for products containing composite plant materials. We are also proposing to establish an exception to the declaration requirement for products containing a minimal amount of plant materials. Both of these actions would relieve the burden on importers while continuing to ensure that the declaration requirement fulfills the purposes of the Lacey Act.


Agency: Department of Agriculture(USDA) Priority: Other Significant
RIN Status: Previously published in the Unified Agenda Agenda Stage of Rulemaking:Proposed Rule Stage
Major: No Unfunded Mandates: No
CFR Citation: 7 CFR 357
Legal Authority: 16 U.S.C. 3371 et seq.
Legal Deadline:  None

Action Date FR Cite
ANPRM 06/30/2011 76 FR 38330
ANPRM Comment Period End 08/29/2011
NPRM 08/00/2017
Additional Information: Additional information about APHIS and its programs is available on the Internet at http://www.aphis.usda.gov.
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Required: No Government Levels Affected: None
Federalism: No
Included in the Regulatory Plan: No
International Impacts: This regulatory action will be likely to have international trade and investment effects, or otherwise be of international interest.
RIN Data Printed in the FR: No
Agency Contact:
Parul Patel
Senior Agriculturalist, Permitting and Compliance Coordination, PPQ
Department of Agriculture
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
4700 River Road, Unit 60,
Riverdale, MD 20737-1231
Phone:301 851-2351

Benchmark International to Attend and Participate in Forest Legality Week

David Jones from Benchmark International will be at Forest Legality Week in Washington D.C. learning more about updates concerning forest legality and changes in regulatory landscape. He will also be participating in a panel on Private Sector Experiences in Implementing Due Care Practices.

Trees, More Than the Forest They Make (Part 2)


The structure of the wood cells found inside of a tree are known as wood anatomy. Once the tree has been cut down and processed into a forest product like lumber or veneer, we can look at that structure and both identify what species of tree the wood came from and what the wood can be used for in our lives.

Different structures in the wood perform different functions inside of the tree. Some cells move water from the ground up to the crown (leaves), others move water from the center of the tree towards the outside edges; still other produce or store materials for the tree. Each of these cells cause the wood to have a different appearance when cut into lumber.

Here are some examples of different woods:


red oak






As you can see there are similarities between each wood, but there are definitely more differences. These are part of what makes each wood different and also part of why and how trees of different species grow in different places. Next time we will dig a little deeper into what each structure is and the function.

(To be continued)

Third-party certification has its problems for offshore companies

Originally published by FurnitureToday 

Written By: Powell Slaughter | Senior Editor PSlaughter@furnituretoday.com

COLFAX, N.C. — Third-party certification of offshore mills producing composite wood products for compliance with EPA/CARB formaldehyde rules has problems.

That’s the word from Travis Snapp, founder and president of global certification and inspection agency as well as testing lab operator Benchmark International, for attendees at the recent AHFA Formaldehyde Workshop here.

There’s a distinction between testing laboratories, which analyze products against published standards that give mostly straightforward instructions on how to carry out the analysis, vs. TPCs. “Being a TPC agency is a different animal from a testing lab,” Snapp said. “You need the knowledge of manufacturing to go in and see if they’re doing the right things for certification.”

For its part, Benchmark invested to place its own offices, labs and employees overseas. Right now it has 42 CARB TPCs and testing labs in 17 countries certifying 1,212 mills.

TPC competence

Snapp said a competent EPA/CARB TPC needs expertise in five areas: product certification, laboratory procedure and analysis, inspection of specific manufacturing processes, data management and, for international TPCs, foreign operations.

In terms of product certification, a TPC should operate under a well-documented and well-implemented quality management system with a high level of technical and ethical standards; ensure competent testing, inspection and surveillance to support all certified products; and maintain full compliance with ISO/IEC Standard 17065 and, when applicable, sector-specific requirements to meet market and regulatory needs.

Snapp believes a good TPC should be an expert in laboratory procedures and analysis. “If you don’t have capability in the lab, how can you go into a plant and make sure they’re doing it right? A simple question to ask is, ‘Does a TPC have a lab?’” he said.

Follow that with: What methods are listed in their scope, and are you free to visit the TPC’s facility? The latter is particularly important for importers. Onsite inspection can reveal problems: If there’s dust on the desiccator, for example, “it’s a good sign they’re not using the desiccator, Also, ask how they’ve performed in proficiency testing,” Snapp said, adding that’s important because TPCs can subcontract testing.

“I have a huge problem with subcontracting out for inspecting and testing … subcontracting as a backup is one thing, but if it’s your primary method there’s a problem,” Snapp said. “You have to demonstrate proficiency and knowledge in what you’re doing. Certification is not easy if you’re doing it right.”

In addition to knowledge of manufacturing processes, Snapp emphasized the importance of a TPC’s data management capability. Reporting requirements for EPA’s central data exchange includes a “mountain of information” such as mill physical, product and quality control information; correlation data and compliance testing for each batch or lot; failure notifications and annual reporting.

“And it all has to be in English,” Snapp added. “How is your (offshore) TPC going to handle the language barrier?”

What does it all mean?

Snapp closed his presentation with photos of glue spreaders and mixing stations from what he said are current CARB-certified mills depicting abysmal production conditions.

“I’ve walked through some of these plants, and it burned the hairs in my nose – I didn’t need to bring my trimmers on the trip,” he quipped.

The bottom line for importers is that the new formaldehyde rule encompasses different facets of manufacturing, conversion, shipment and sales.

“The (offshore certification) program is still weak, and you must get involved with your TPCs to make sure the job is done right,” Snapp said.


Lacey Act Press Release Department of Justice

Essential Oils Company Sentenced for Lacey Act and Endangered Species Act Violations to Pay $760,000 in Fines, Forfeiture, and Community Service, and to Implement a Comprehensive Compliance Plan

Department of Justice

Office of Public Affairs

The Justice Department announced today that YOUNG LIVING ESSENTIAL OILS, L.C., (the Company), headquartered in Lehi, Utah, pleaded guilty in federal court to federal misdemeanor charges regarding its illegal trafficking of rosewood oil and spikenard oil in violation of the Lacey Act and the Endangered Species Act. The Company voluntarily disclosed its rosewood oil violations and has been cooperating with government investigators. Pursuant to the terms of the plea agreement, the Company was sentenced to a fine of $500,000, $135,000 in restitution, a community service payment of $125,000 for the conservation of protected species of plants used in essential oils, and a term of five years’ probation with special conditions. The conditions include the implementation of a corporate compliance plan, audits, and the publication of statements regarding its convictions.

“The importation of illegally harvested wood and timber products harms law-abiding American companies and workers and threatens forest resources around the world,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood of the Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Our Division was proud to work alongside the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Utah, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Department of Homeland Security to bring this case to a positive conclusion.”

“While the natural resource violations by certain employees of Young Living were intentional and substantial, the Company’s decision to conduct an internal investigation, voluntarily disclose the initial violations to government enforcement authorities, and cooperate throughout the ensuing investigation is to be commended,” said U.S. Attorney John W. Huber for the District of Utah. “This sentence reflects both the seriousness of the offenses and the acceptance of responsibility and cooperation by the Company.”

According to the plea agreement, from June 2010 to October 2014, several company employees and contractors harvested, transported, and distilled rosewood (Aniba roseaodora or Brazilian rosewood) in Peru and imported some of the resulting oil into the United States, through Ecuador. Peruvian law prohibits the unauthorized harvest and transport of timber, including rosewood. Neither the Company nor its suppliers, employees, or agents had any valid authorization from the Peruvian government. Peru also prohibits the export of species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), without the required permits. The Company did not obtain any CITES export permits from Peru. Between 2010 and 2014, a few Company employees harvested, transported, and possessed a total of approximately 86 tons of rosewood, all of which was harvested in violation of Peruvian law. The rosewood was intended for distillation and export to the United States and some had already been illegally brought over. The Company lacked an internal compliance program or formal procedures, training, or means to review and resolve problems and identify and stop potential violations. As a result, the Company hired outside counsel to conduct an internal investigation into the violations due to the illegal harvesting and shipping of plants that occurred in Peru and Ecuador. On July 20, 2015, once the internal investigation was complete, the Company made an initial written voluntary disclosure to the Government of various facts indicating their potentially illegal violations.

The investigation revealed that, in addition to the conduct disclosed by the Company, in December 2015, the Company exported spikenard oil harvested in Napal to the United Kingdom, without a CITES permit. The spikenard oil was previously imported from a company in the United Kingdom that had obtained a CITES export permit. The Company found the product to be unsatisfactory and shipped it back to the United Kingdom. On March 23, 2016, a Company employee filed an application for a CITES permit for this shipment after the fact, and without providing the required copy of the permit authorizing its original export from the United Kingdom.

The investigation also revealed that between November 2014 and January 2016, the Company purchased over 1,100 kilograms of rosewood oil from a supplier/importer in the United States without conducting sufficient due diligence to verify lawful sourcing of that oil.

The Government calculates the fair market retail value of the plant products involved in the violations and relevant conduct, including but not limited to product equaling approximately 1,899.75 liters of rosewood oil, to be more than $3.5 million but not more than $9 million.

The investigation was conducted by the Law Enforcement Offices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Inspector General, with assistance of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Homeland Security, Investigations. This case is being prosecuted by the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division’s Environmental Crimes Section and the District of Utah’s U.S Attorney’s Office.

Press Release Number: