Paints & Coatings Resource Center

Ask the Expert Question-and-Answer Archive

by Ron Joseph

June, 2001

Placing the Onus of Compliance on the Paint Manufacturer

Q. In order to reduce HAP and VOC emissions, why not simply focus on reducing the HAP and VOC contents in the paint, as opposed to making the paint facility compliant through capital improvements?

A. Thanks for your e-mail. Your question has been asked a zillion times since the first coating regulations were written in the late 1970s, and the EPA has been challenged repeatedly on this topic. Your question is a good one and since so many people are interested in knowing some of the logic behind EPAs decision to regulate the end-user, I will give you a reasonably detailed answer. Bear in mind that they might not cover all of the arguments.

  1. Original RACT regulations were written and enforced by the states, NOT the EPA, in the early 1980s. True, the EPA provided the guidelines via their Control Techniques Guidelines (CTGs), but since each state had its own unique air pollution problems, the Congress (in the Clean Air Act of 1977) allowed the states to write regulations that were specific to their own industries. While California was struggling with a humongous ozone problem, Montana, Wyoming, and other rural states had, and still do not have the type of industries that warrant regulations.
  2. California decided to go well beyond EPAs RACT guidelines and wrote regulations requiring lower VOC (and later HAP) limits.
  3. If the paint manufacturers were required to sell only "compliant" coatings, which state reg would they follow? What if one city within a state required low VOC/HAP while the rural regions of the same state had no regulatory requirements? (Even in 2001 this situation applies to many states.) Which coating would the paint manufacturer sell .. the high VOC/HAP or low VOC/HAP coating?
  4. Most large paint manufacturers sell through distributors, and in some cases this goes down at least one more level. Who would be responsible for insuring that the "compliant" coatings were appropriately sold to customers? If a distributor, such as a hardware store, sold a high VOC coating to a company that really should have received a low VOC coating, who would be responsible? What if the person purchasing the coating did not want to purchase the more difficult-to-use low VOC coating? Would the paint manufacturer, several levels above the hardware store in the distribution chain, be required to pay the fine?
  5. If the paint manufacturers were held responsible for formulating only "compliant" coatings, they would force many of their customers to make process changes, even if the customers were not required by regulation to do so.

I'm sure there are more arguments that can be made, but this gives you a glimpse of the complexity of the topic.

Please also bear in mind that many companies have been able to incorporate "compliant" coatings without incurring capital outlays.

I hope this helps.

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