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New York City Urged to Put Brakes on Plan for Coatings VOC Rule

Monday, November 21, 2011

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Coatings manufacturers and their industry association are working feverishly to put the brakes on a New York City Council plan to enact a regulation on VOCs in architectural and industrial maintenance coatings.

 New York City skyline
The proposed VOC rule would effectively eliminate the use of coatings that serve “essential functions on building interiors,” the American Coatings Association says.

The city’s plan would present serious compliance issues for manufacturers, retailers, specifiers, and users of architectural and industrial maintenance coatings, the American Coatings Association (ACA) says. The measure differs significantly from existing VOC rules on architectural and IM coatings, imposed by the state of New York and other authorities in the 13-state Ozone Transport Commission (OTC) in the northeastern U.S.

“We’re very concerned that some of the limits are inconsistent, and the categories and definitions are completely inconsistent,” said Tim Siere, ACA counsel, government affairs.

ACA says the regulation caught industry representatives somewhat off-guard, in that it differs considerably from the general outline of a possible measure that had been discussed previously. The association and member companies are working to submit comments on the proposal ahead of a deadline of Wednesday, Nov. 23, with city council action on the bill currently set for Dec. 8.

Differences with Other Rules Seen as Compliance Problem

Most problematic, Siere said, is the proposed rule’s list of coatings categories subject to VOC limits. The list only includes 15 types of coatings, far less than the approximately 50 categories in the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) VOC rule, based on the model rule that OTC member states have followed in developing regulations of VOCs in architectural and IM coatings.

As a result, specialty or high-performance coatings that are not identified in the much smaller New York City list of defined coatings categories would simply “default” to a more general category, such as flat or non-flat coatings. Those general categories impose much lower VOC limits than the specialty categories.

The proposed VOC rule “eliminates the use of coatings that serve essential functions on building interiors—such as fire-resistance coatings; industrial maintenance coatings; stone consolidants; and basement specialty coatings, among others,” ACA says.

Fire-resistive and fire-retardant coatings are not specifically categorized in the proposed New York City rule, meaning they would default to the VOC limits for flat (50 g/L) or non-flat (100 g/L) coatings. The state’s DEC regulation allows VOCs of 350 g/L for fire-resistive coatings and opaque fire-retardant coatings, and 650 g/L for clear fire-retardant coatings.

Notably absent from the proposed New York City regulation is the category of industrial maintenance coatings, which under the state DEC rule are allowed a VOC maximum of 340 g/L.

A number of other specialty, high-performance coatings are not specifically identified, with higher VOC limits, in the city’s proposed rule, including various types of wood coatings; roof coatings of any type; high-temperature coatings; mastic texture coatings; metallic-pigmented coatings; multi-color coatings; recycled coatings; swimming-pool coatings; waterproofing concrete/masonry sealers; wood preservatives; and others.

A category called “high-gloss coatings” in the proposed New York city rule carries a VOC limit of 50 g/L—the same as flat coatings, and far lower than the 250 g/L in the state regulation’s category of “nonflat high-gloss coatings.”

In another example, the New York DEC VOC regulation allows “faux finishing coatings” with a VOC content of up to 350 grams per liter; the proposed New York City rule includes no “faux finishing coatings” category, meaning these products may “default” to a non-flat coating VOC limit of 100 grams per liter.

The proposed regulation can be seen on the New York City Council legislative website at Limits on VOC Emissions. The proposed regulation of architectural and IM coatings is part of a larger measure that also would affect carpeting and adhesives of various types.
ACA representatives say the proposed rule’s VOC limits are not as problematic as the regulation’s drastically different list of defined coatings types. The VOC limits are lower than existing OTC and New York DEC rules in a few cases, but New York and other OTC states are expected to enact new, lower VOC limits in the next year or two anyway, Siere said.

But the drastic differences in the defined coatings categories, along with other technical differences in the city’s rule, would present a major compliance headache, Siere said.

Plan Arose from ‘Greening’ of Codes

Siere said the plan for the New York City regulation originated with the submission of a report to the city from the New York chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. The report, “NYC Codes Task Force,” was aimed at assisting the city in “greening” of its building and construction codes.

Still, Siere said, industry representatives had participated in the city’s discussions of the report and its implementation, and had been told any regulation would be consistent with existing state and OTC-driven rules. Industry representatives were surprised when a drastically different rule emerged from the city council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings.

ACA has listed a number of “key concerns” about the proposed VOC measure, and says the proposal:

• would add significant regulatory burden confusion, regulatory uncertainty, and enforcement concerns;

• is inconsistent with the New York DEC’s architectural coatings regulations, and  incorporates inconsistent VOC limits and different definitions;

• is also inconsistent with other green building standards and codes that rely on the 2007 California Air Resources Board’s Suggested Control Measures for architectural and industrial maintenance coatings;

• includes recordkeeping requirements that are unnecessary and overlap with federal regulations;

• includes notification provisions that are problematic for retailers and serve little purpose since retailers and manufacturers must already comply with VOC content limits and labeling requirements for these products; and;

• would eliminate the use of specific coatings technologies by prohibiting the use of polyurethane products. 

VOC Limits in Proposed New York City Regulation on Architectural and Industrial Maintenance Coatings

 VOC Limits table
* VOC Limits are defined as total grams of VOCs per liter of coating, less water and less exempt compounds as calculated pursuant to subpart 205.6 of part 205 of title 6 of the official compilation of the codes, rules and regulations of the state of New York.


Tagged categories: American Coatings Association (ACA); Environmental Protection; Government; Regulations; VOC content; VOC emissions

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (11/22/2011, 9:17 AM)

Contrariwise, that seems an awfully high allowed VOC for shellac. Shellac is usually dissolved in ethanol. Pure ethanol has a density of 789 g/L - you would need hardly any actual solids (shellac, or shellac and pigment) to meet that "tight" VOC standard.

Comment from stacy Bradberry, (11/22/2011, 10:46 AM)

As a representative for a coatings manufacturer whose VOC level is 1.186 g/l I do not feel that these 'limits' are extreme. I feel that allowing products to be used in these enclosed spaces with such high VOC levels is absurd!

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (11/23/2011, 8:23 AM)

Stacy - does your company use exempt solvents such as acetone, PCBTF and TbAC to make those numbers?

Comment from stacy Bradberry, (11/23/2011, 9:35 AM)

Tom, the company I work for does not use any of the 'exempt' solvents you have mentioned and has had no reformulation after almost 30 years. We pride ourselves in not allowing hazardous materials into our product and feel that we represent what very well may be the first ever "0" VOC coating.

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