ILMA, WD-40 Clash over CA Bill


The Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association and WD-40 are at odds over a California Senate bill to amend South Coast Air Quality Management Districts Rule 1144 to exempt consumer products like WD-40 that are regulated by the California Air Resources Board.

Californias South Coast Air Quality Management District Rule 1144 aims to reduce volatile organic compounds emissions from metalworking fluids and rust inhibitors. The rule applies to all industrial users of the products in Californias Orange County and in the urban portions of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernadino Counties, and to the fluid manufacturers and marketers who supply them.

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Sen. Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) introduced California Senate Bill 1127 on Feb. 21. In a March 2 letter to Sen. Vargas, ILMA asserted the exemption for consumer products would frustrate the rules air quality goals and could create severe competitive inequities for suppliers of these fluids in the South Coast Basin, who already have taken significant steps at some expense to comply with Rule 1144.

It would be extremely unfair to suppliers of metalworking fluids and direct-contact lubricants if, following a lawful, open public process in promulgating Rule 1144, the legislature were now to pick one company – that is, WD-40 – as a winner simply because maybe a dozen out of 2,000 uses of its product at most are affected by the rule, ILMA continued. WD-40 should be asked why it cannot make good-faith efforts to comply with Rule 1144 like other suppliers and why instead it should be singled-out for a legislative exemption.

In its letter, ILMA also expressed concern that a full exemption for WD-40s products under Rule 1144 would give the company unfettered ability to sell its non-compliant products for use in parts manufacturing and assembly in the South Coast Basin. WD-40 effectively would have no regulatory barriers under Rule 1144 and could sell its products for these regulated uses without regard to the rule. Such a loophole likely is WD-40s motivation in seeking an exemption from the legislature.

ILMA General Counsel Jeffrey Leiter explained another concern the association had was that the bill effectively exempting consumer products altogether from Rule 1144 could allow a supplier to make one or more sales of its now-regulated product to households or institutional customers to qualify that product as a consumer product that would then be fully exempt from the rule. That just doesnt make sense, Leiter told Lube Report.

The association said it appears that the CARB rules on consumer products, and the districts coverage of parts manufacturing and assembly in Rule 1144, are intended to be complementary, rather than mutually exclusive. Enactment of SB 1127, as introduced, would leave a regulatory gap that would undercut the intent of the legislature, CARB and the district in protecting human health and the environment.

WD-40 disagrees, saying its products should only be regulated by one agency. Our issue is regulatory overlap, where we have the same product now being regulated by two agencies – one the local air district, and one the state, Michael Freeman, division president, Americas, for WD-40 Co., told Lube Report. In such a case, the state regulations have precedence, according to state law. We cant have two agencies using two different sets of rules, two different sets of measurements on the same product, especially when its already 100 percent under the control of one, including its manufacturing uses. We dont have an issue with being regulated – we have been, and weve been strongly involved with that.

Freeman noted that the company reports 100 percent of its WD-40 brand sales to the California Air Resources Board. Based on that, we have to pay a VOC figure every year, which is in the six figures, he said. We have had to go through a lot of cost to reformulate WD-40 from originally 70 to 75 percent VOC content down to 50 percent. In the year 2013, it goes down to 25 percent VOC, and in 2015 at the end it goes down to 10 percent VOC.

He pointed out the WD-40 formula is unique in that its used in 90 percent of U.S. households but also 80 percent of workplaces, while being purchased from a wide variety of places. The blessing and curse of our brand power is because we are available in so many locations, bought at so many locations, and used for so many different uses, we have no visibility about whos buying what, and how its getting used, Freeman said. For us to be regulated by use, in addition to having the regulatory overlap because were already regulated for VOC reductions, doesnt work for our brand.

Freeman pointed out that CARB does not regulate products designed for and used exclusively in industrial manufacturing. Almost all of our competition and all the products that are underneath Rule 1144 that ILMA represents are industrial-only products, he said. Thats the big difference. Theyve never been under a CARB regulation, so they have no regulatory overlap. We have been under CARB regulations for years, 100 percent.

ILMA is co-sponsoring with the South Coast Air Quality Management District a symposium March 8 in Diamond Bar, Calif., to discuss Rule 1144. For more information, visit ILMAs symposium web page.