[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 165 (Thursday, August 27, 2009)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 43643-43645]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E9-20708]


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Proposed Rules
                                                Federal Register
________________________________________________________________________

This section of the FEDERAL REGISTER contains notices to the public of 
the proposed issuance of rules and regulations. The purpose of these 
notices is to give interested persons an opportunity to participate in 
the rule making prior to the adoption of the final rules.

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Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 165 / Thursday, August 27, 2009 / 
Proposed Rules

[[Page 43643]]



DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

7 CFR Part 301

[Docket No. APHIS-2009-0016]
RIN 0579-AD01


Wood Packaging Material Used in Domestic Commerce

AGENCY: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA.

ACTION: Advance notice of proposed rulemaking and request for comments; 
notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement.

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SUMMARY: We are soliciting public comment on regulatory options that 
could be applied to wood packaging material (e.g., crates, dunnage, 
wooden spools, pallets, packing blocks) used in domestic commerce to 
decrease the risk of the artificial spread of plant pests such as the 
emerald ash borer and the Asian longhorned beetle. These and other 
plant pests that could be transported interstate by wood packaging 
material pose a serious threat to U.S. agriculture and to natural, 
cultivated, and urban forests. We are also announcing our intent to 
prepare an environmental impact statement on various potential pest 
mitigation measures and opening a public scoping period for this 
document.

DATES: We will consider all comments that we receive on or before 
October 26, 2009.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by either of the following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=DocketDetail&d=APHIS-2009-0016 to submit or view comments and 
to view supporting and related materials available electronically.
     Postal Mail/Commercial Delivery: Please send two copies of 
your comment to Docket No. APHIS-2009-0016, Regulatory Analysis and 
Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road Unit 118, 
Riverdale, MD 20737-1238. Please state that your comment refers to 
Docket No. APHIS-2009-0016.
    Reading Room: You may read any comments that we receive on this 
docket in our reading room. The reading room is located in room 1141 of 
the USDA South Building, 14th Street and Independence Avenue, SW., 
Washington, DC. Normal reading room hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., 
Monday through Friday, except holidays. To be sure someone is there to 
help you, please call (202) 690-2817 before coming.
    Other Information: Additional information about APHIS and its 
programs is available on the Internet at http://www.aphis.usda.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Paul Chaloux, National Emerald Ash 
Borer Program Manager, PPQ, APHIS, 4700 River Road Unit 137, Riverdale, 
MD 20737-1236; (301) 734-0917.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    The regulations in Subpart--Logs, Lumber, and Other Unmanufactured 
Wood Articles (7 CFR 319.40-1 though 319.40-11, referred to below as 
the regulations) restrict the importation of many types of wood 
articles, including items such as pallets, crates, boxes, and pieces of 
wood used to support and brace cargo. These types of articles are known 
as wood packaging materials (WPM). Introductions into the United States 
of exotic plant pests such as the pine shoot beetle Tomicus piniperda 
(Scolytidae) and the Asian longhorned beetle Anaplophora glabripennis 
(Cerambycidae) among others have been linked to the importation of WPM. 
Risk of the artificial spread of plant pests has also been linked to 
the domestic movement of WPM in and around quarantined areas.
    The variety of woods and lumber qualities used in the construction 
of WPM make it susceptible to infestation by a wide range of wood pests 
and diseases. WPM is frequently constructed from lower grade lumber 
derived from an assortment of woods. Additionally, lumber used in WPM 
construction may be fresh cut and may not have undergone sufficient 
processing or treatment to kill pests. Furthermore, WPM is very often 
reused, recycled, or remanufactured, and the true origin of any 
specific piece of WPM is difficult to determine, which means that its 
phytosanitary status cannot be fully ascertained. These facts, coupled 
with the amount of WPM in circulation, create a high level of concern 
that WPM may serve as a vehicle for human assisted long-distance 
movement of various plant pests.
    Currently, the regulations in 7 CFR part 301 contain domestic 
quarantine notices for specific pests that identify regulated articles, 
quarantined areas, and conditions governing the interstate movement of 
regulated articles from quarantined areas. The domestic quarantines for 
wood pests, such as emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle, 
regulate the movement of logs, lumber, and other unmanufactured wood 
articles from quarantined areas to non-quarantined areas within the 
United States. Quarantine requirements governing movement of WPM vary 
for different pests. The variety of requirements creates a regulatory 
framework that may create confusion and present challenges to industry 
and stakeholder compliance. As a result, we are exploring the 
development of uniform measures to govern interstate movement of all 
WPM in order to provide greater ease of comprehension and compliance. 
This action is supported by various WPM industry groups.
    We are publishing this advance notice of proposed rulemaking in 
order to seek information and develop regulatory options on the general 
problem of plant pests in WPM moved interstate. WPM accompanies nearly 
all types of domestically shipped commodities, from fruits and 
vegetables to machinery and electrical equipment. National Wooden 
Pallet and Container Association figures indicate that 1.2 billion 
pallets are currently in circulation in the United States, with 93 
percent of all goods moving on those pallets. We are seeking ways to 
maximize our protection against the artificial spread of various plant 
pests by WPM without placing unjustified strain on domestic commerce 
and shipping requirements. We are requesting public comment on what 
actions would be most effective and appropriate to reduce the risk of 
this potential spread.

[[Page 43644]]

    We are specifically seeking options for establishing uniform 
requirements for the domestic handling of WPM, alternative treatments 
to methyl bromide that could be used to reduce the risk of WPM 
contributing to the artificial spread of various plant pests, as well 
as alternative practices for handling WPM. These measures would be 
independent of any specific movement restrictions and treatment 
requirements contained in 7 CFR part 301 for particular plant pests.

Options for Managing the Pest Risks Associated With WPM

    We are specifically requesting comment on options for strengthening 
our response to the risks associated with the restrictions on 
interstate movement of WPM, the potential impacts of increased use of 
alternative packaging materials such as plastic pallets and/or 
processed wood, and a number of technical questions.
    At this time, we are considering the feasibility of implementing 
International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) treatment standards as 
requirements for the domestic movement of WPM. In a final rule 
published in the Federal Register on September 16, 2004 (69 FR 55719-
55733; Docket No. 02-032-3), we amended the regulations in order to 
update the requirements for importation of WPM to correspond with 
standards established by the IPPC in International Standards for 
Phytosanitary Measures (ISPM) 15, ``Guidelines for Regulating Wood 
Packaging Material in International Trade.'' Paragraph (b) of Sec.  
319.40-3 of the regulations lists the IPPC requirements, which include 
either heat treatment or fumigation with methyl bromide and the proper 
marking of all treated materials with the approved IPPC symbol and 
specific control numbers.
    Another option for strengthening regulations concerning the 
domestic movement of WPM is a practice employed by a segment of the 
pallet industry called pooling. Pooled pallet companies retain 
ownership of individual pallets through a pallet's lifecycle through 
rigorous inventory tracking and management, leasing these pallets to 
companies engaged in interstate commodity movement. The pooled pallets 
are constructed from a higher grade of wood than traditional pallets, 
with strict specifications pertaining to such factors as species of 
tree and source location. Some pallets are constructed out of plastics 
or resin, which is typically recycled into new pallets at the end of 
the first pallet's lifecycle. A third variety of pallet is constructed 
of a combination of wood and plastics. Combining IPPC treatments with 
pallet pooling may provide sufficient mitigation of the pest risk 
associated with WPM moving domestically in the United States.
    We are also seeking ways to respond to environmental concerns about 
the use of methyl bromide fumigation on domestic wood products in the 
long term. Most fumigations of wood products have historically involved 
treatments with methyl bromide due to convenience, cost, availability, 
ease of handling, timely completion of treatment, and good efficacy. 
Any potential increase in the use of methyl bromide is of concern 
because of the associated risk of increased ozone depletion, which 
results in increased ultraviolet radiation at the Earth's surface. We 
are intent on minimizing the use of methyl bromide in order to protect 
the stratospheric ozone layer, and we are seeking options that will 
accomplish this objective.

Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement

    These scoping questions include inquiries relevant to the 
preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS). The EIS will 
examine the range of potential effects that the proposed applications 
could pose to the human environment, taking into account those 
alternatives and issues presented in response to this advance notice of 
proposed rulemaking.
    We are seeking public comment on the options discussed in this 
document. There may also be additional information relevant to domestic 
production and movement of WPM that should be considered during the 
drafting of any potential regulation. In particular, APHIS would like 
to improve its understanding of the scientific, economic, and 
logistical aspects of the domestic production, use, and movement of WPM 
and the potential protection that a domestic regulation might provide 
for domestic forests and natural resources.
    The environmental effects of any alternatives selected will be 
analyzed in full compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act 
in the EIS mentioned above. Our goal is to maximize protection of U.S. 
agriculture and forests against plant pests associated with WPM without 
unduly affecting domestic trade or the environment. We are interested 
in information on any alternatives that would accomplish this goal. We 
welcome comments that address the economic impacts that the various 
options may have on domestic entities.
    We are also seeking public comment addressing the following 
questions, which will help us better consider the potential issues 
surrounding the proposed EIS and any possible regulations governing 
interstate movement of WPM that would mitigate the pest risks 
associated with these articles:
    1. Are there issues of concern if we were to establish domestic 
regulations pertaining to the interstate movement of WPM that mirror 
the IPPC treatment standards?
    2. Other than ISPM 15 treatments as required for exportation of WPM 
and treatments authorized under specific domestic pest quarantines, 
what environmentally sound regulatory or nonregulatory actions would 
maximize protection against the spread of invasive pests associated 
with WPM in a cost-effective manner?
    3. Are data available for treatments, other than those currently 
authorized under the regulations, which might be used nationally to 
reduce the risk of WPM introducing pests into new habitats?
    4. Could the imposition of a requirement that WPM moving interstate 
be bark-free reduce the need for other regulatory treatment 
requirements?
    5. What is the magnitude of the pest risks associated with WPM 
moving interstate and to what extent would the options presented here, 
or other options, reduce these risks?
    6. APHIS would like to better understand the potential economic 
effects of requiring treatment for interstate movement of WPM, 
including the following specific issues:
    a. What proportion of WPM currently used domestically is either 
made with heat-treated (core temperature raised to a prescribed level 
for a prescribed period of time) or methyl bromide fumigated raw wood 
inputs, or treated using either of these methods following 
construction?
    b. If heat treatment or methyl bromide fumigation of all WPM were 
required, what proportions of WPM producers would install new, 
additional, or upgraded heat-treating or fumigating equipment at their 
facilities?
    c. How do the prices of treated wood inputs for WPM construction 
and repair compare to the prices of untreated wood inputs?
    d. What are the typical one-time costs associated with the purchase 
and installation of heat treating or methyl bromide fumigation 
equipment for raw wood inputs or finished WPM, and what are the time 
periods involved in

[[Page 43645]]

the purchase and installation of the treatment equipment?
    e. What are the typical ongoing operating costs associated with 
heat treatment or methyl bromide fumigation of wood inputs or 
constructed WPM (including labor, energy, and other variable expenses)?
    f. Information provided by the American Lumber Standards Committee 
indicates that there is significant unused heat treatment capacity 
across the United States. Is this capacity appropriate for both 
supplying treated inputs and treating finished products? And is this 
capacity suitably distributed regionally to adequately serve the WPM 
industry if treatment were required for all WPM moved interstate?
    7. What would be the environmental effects of requiring treatment 
of WPM moved interstate, including effects on global climate change and 
the stratospheric ozone layer? What would be the environmental effects 
of alternative packaging materials?
    a. If the WPM industry is given the option of heat treatment or 
methyl bromide fumigation, what, if any, change would occur in carbon 
dioxide emissions relative to current global emissions, and what, if 
any, changes would occur in atmospheric bromine concentrations relative 
to current global concentrations?
    b. What effect would changes in rates of use of the most likely 
alternative packaging materials have on emissions?
    8. How could APHIS best monitor compliance with treatment 
requirements? How can WPM be identified as eligible for interstate 
movement if treatment were to be required? Should we recognize ISPM 15 
markings as one means of identifying WPM as eligible for interstate 
movement?
    9. Various parties are frequently involved in the construction and 
interstate movement of WPM. Who should be responsible for ensuring that 
WPM moving interstate meets any requirements that might be imposed?
    10. Is it feasible and cost-effective for the shipping industry to 
replace WPM with processed wood packaging material or other alternative 
packaging material?
    a. What are the most likely substitutes?
    b. What portion of the packaging material market do alternative 
materials currently comprise?
    11. One advantage of wood dunnage is its biodegradable nature. What 
would be the environmental effects, if any, of requiring that less 
biodegradable materials be substituted for wood dunnage?
    12. Concern has been expressed over the relative fire hazards 
associated with certain packaging materials, specifically plastic. Is 
there any specific information about the fire hazard of WPM relative to 
other packaging materials that should be considered in our assessment 
of environmental and other risks?
    13. If treatment of some kind were to be required for all WPM moved 
interstate, would the industry need a phase-in period to allow time to 
adapt? If so, how long should this phase-in period last?
    In addition to the questions listed above, we are asking that the 
public identify any other issues that they consider to be appropriate 
in connection with amending the regulations governing the interstate 
movement of WPM.
    This action has been determined to be not significant for the 
purposes of Executive Order 12866 and, therefore, has not been reviewed 
by the Office of Management and Budget.

    Authority: 7 U.S.C. 7701-7772 and 7781-7786; 7 CFR 2.22, 2.80, 
and 371.3.

    Done in Washington, DC, this 24th day of August 2009.
Kevin Shea,
Acting Administrator, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
[FR Doc. E9-20708 Filed 8-26-09; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-34-P