[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 229 (Wednesday, November 27, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 70938-70941]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-28507]


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ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

[EPA-HQ-OPPT-2013-0579; FRL-9394-7]


Draft Guidelines; Product Environmental Performance Standards and 
Ecolabels for Voluntary Use in Federal Procurement; Notice of 
Availability and Request for Comments

AGENCY: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

ACTION: Notice.

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SUMMARY: EPA is announcing for public review and comment draft 
Guidelines intended to provide a transparent, fair, and consistent 
approach to using non-governmental product environmental performance 
standards and ecolabels in Federal purchasing, consistent with Federal 
standards policy and sustainable acquisition mandates. These draft 
Guidelines have been developed in response to requests via a wide 
variety of stakeholder engagement channels from suppliers, 
manufacturers, environmental organizations, Federal purchasers, and 
other stakeholders over the last several years. Voluntary guidelines 
for standards and ecolabels would help agencies implement sustainable 
acquisition requirements of Executive Order 13514 and the Federal 
Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 23.103 which requires 95% of the 
government's applicable contract actions to be sustainable. 
Specifically, the Guidelines for standards and ecolabels could provide 
clarity regarding the term ``environmentally preferable'' for purposes 
of the Executive Order. In addition to seeking input on the draft 
Guidelines themselves, EPA is seeking input on how standards and 
ecolabels should be assessed for conformance to such guidelines. The 
proposed draft Guidelines and supplementary information can be found in 
the docket and at http://www.epa.gov/epp/draftGuidelines.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before February 25, 2014.

ADDRESSES: Submit your comments, identified by docket identification 
(ID) number EPA-HQ-OPPT-2013-0579, by one of the following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. 
Follow the online instructions for submitting comments.
     Mail: Document Control Office (7407M), Office of Pollution 
Prevention and Toxics (OPPT), Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 
Pennsylvania Ave. NW., Washington, DC 20460-0001.
     Delivery: OPPT Document Control Office (DCO), William 
Jefferson Clinton (WJC) East Bldg., Rm. 6428, 1201 Constitution Ave. 
NW., Washington, DC. ATTN: Docket ID Number EPA-HQ-OPPT-2013-0579. The 
DCO is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding 
legal holidays. The telephone number for the DCO is (202) 564-8930. 
Such deliveries are only accepted during the DCO's normal hours of 
operation, and special arrangements should be made for deliveries of 
boxed information.
     Instructions: Direct your comments to docket ID number 
EPA-HQ-OPPT-2013-0579. EPA's policy is that all comments received will 
be included in the docket without change and may be made available 
online at http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal 
information provided, unless the comment includes information claimed 
to be Confidential Business Information (CBI) or other information 
whose disclosure is restricted by statute. Do not submit information 
that you consider to be CBI or otherwise protected through 
regulations.gov or email. The regulations.gov Web site is an 
``anonymous access'' system, which means EPA will not know your 
identity or contact information unless you provide it in the body of 
your comment. If you send an email comment directly to EPA without 
going through regulations.gov, your email address will be automatically 
captured and included as part of the comment that is placed in the 
docket and made available on the Internet. If you submit an electronic 
comment, EPA recommends that you include your name and other contact 
information in the body of your comment and with any disk or CD-ROM you 
submit. If EPA cannot read your comment due to technical difficulties 
and cannot contact you for clarification, EPA may not be able to 
consider your comment. Electronic files should avoid

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the use of special characters, any form of encryption, and be free of 
any defects or viruses.
     Docket: All documents in the docket are listed in the 
docket index available at http://www.regulations.gov. Although listed 
in the index, some information is not publicly available, e.g., CBI or 
other information whose disclosure is restricted by statute. Certain 
other material, such as copyrighted material, is not placed on the 
Internet and will be publicly available only in hard copy form. 
Publicly available docket materials are available in the electronic 
docket at http://www.regulations.gov, or at the OPPT Docket. The OPPT 
Docket is located in the EPA Docket Center (EPA/DC) at Rm. 3334, WJC 
West Bldg., 1301 Constitution Ave. NW., Washington, DC. The EPA/DC 
Public Reading Room hours of operation are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., 
Monday through Friday, excluding legal holidays. The telephone number 
of the EPA/DC Public Reading Room is (202) 566-1744, and the telephone 
number for the OPPT Docket is (202) 566-0280. Docket visitors are 
required to show photographic identification, pass through a metal 
detector, and sign the EPA visitor log. All visitor bags are processed 
through an X-ray machine and subject to search. Visitors will be 
provided an EPA/DC badge that must be visible at all times in the 
building and returned upon departure.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For information regarding 
environmentally preferable purchasing, contact: Alison Kinn Bennett, 
Senior Advisor, Pollution Prevention Division (7409M), Office of 
Pollution Prevention and Toxics, Office of Chemical Safety and 
Pollution Prevention, Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 
Pennsylvania Ave. NW., Washington, DC 20460-0001; telephone number: 
(202) 564-8859; email address: [email protected].
    For information regarding standards policy, contact: Mary McKiel, 
Standards Executive, International Staff (7101M), Office of Chemical 
Safety and Pollution Prevention, Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 
Pennsylvania Ave. NW., Washington, DC 20460-0001; telephone number: 
(202) 564-0532; email address: [email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

I. Does this action apply to me?

    This action is directed to the public in general. Although this 
action may be of particular interest to those persons who purchase or 
provide products and services for Federal agencies, developers of 
standards and ecolabels, and the manufacturers of products, the Agency 
has not attempted to describe all the specific entities that may be 
affected by this action. If you have any questions regarding the 
applicability of this action to a particular entity, consult the 
technical contact person listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT.

II. Background

A. What action is the agency taking?

    EPA is announcing for public review and comment draft Guidelines 
intended to assist the Federal workforce in more consistently utilizing 
non-governmental product environmental performance standards and 
ecolabels in the Federal procurement process, consistent with Federal 
standards policy and sustainable acquisition mandates.
    Federal agencies must comply with the following sustainability-
related purchasing mandates: section 2(h) of Executive Order 13514 
(Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy and Economic Performance), 
section 6002 of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, section 
9002 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, The Energy 
Policy Act, section 2(d) of Executive Order 13423 (Strengthening 
Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management) (72 FR 
3919, January 26, 2007), and the FAR, including FAR Part 23 
(Environment, Energy and Water Efficiency, Renewable Energy 
Technologies, Occupational Safety, and Drug-Free Workplace) (see http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/procurement_index_green).
    Section 2(h) of Executive Order 13514 states that:

    The Head of each Agency shall . . . advance sustainable 
acquisition to ensure that 95 percent of new contract actions 
including task and delivery orders, for products and services with 
the exception of acquisition of weapon systems, are . . . energy-
efficient (Energy Star or Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) 
designated), water-efficient, biobased, environmentally preferable 
(e.g., Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) 
certified), non-ozone depleting, contain recycled content, or are 
non-toxic or less toxic alternatives, where such products and 
services meet agency performance requirements.

    In addition, via the ``National Technology Transfer and Advancement 
Act of 1995'' (Pub. L. 104-113; hereinafter ``the NTTAA''), Congress 
required Federal agencies to ``use technical standards that are 
developed or adopted by voluntary consensus standards bodies, using 
such technical standards as a means to carry out policy objectives or 
activities,'' except when an agency determines that such use ``is 
inconsistent with applicable law or otherwise impractical.'' Office of 
Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-119 (titled ``Federal 
Participation in the Development and Use of Voluntary Consensus 
Standards and in Conformity Assessment Activities'') reaffirms Federal 
agency use of non-governmental standards in procurement.
    While Federal purchasing policy is clear for the several standards 
and ecolabels that are listed in statute, regulation, or Executive 
Order, the lack of guidance on using other product environmental 
performance standards and ecolabels often results in an inconsistent 
approach by Federal purchasers and confusion and uncertainty for 
vendors and manufacturers.
    Therefore, in accordance with Federal obligations under the NTTAA 
and OMB Circular A-119 (see http://www.standards.gov), EPA is 
requesting comments on draft Guidelines that could be used to select 
non-governmental product environmental performance standards and 
ecolabels for voluntary use in Federal procurement. Additionally, the 
Guidelines could provide clarity regarding the term ``environmentally 
preferable'' for purposes of Executive Order 13514, building upon EPA's 
``1999 Final Guidance on Environmentally Preferable Purchasing'' (see 
http://www.epa.gov/epp/pubs/guidance/finalguidance.htm) which defines 
``environmentally preferable'' to mean products or services that ``have 
a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when 
compared with competing products or services that serve the same 
purpose. This comparison may consider raw materials acquisition, 
production, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, reuse, operation, 
maintenance or disposal of the product or service''.
    As envisioned by EPA, guidelines for standards and ecolabels that 
would be used by the Federal government would not be applied to 
products directly or to government standards and ecolabels or to non-
governmental standards and ecolabels that are already mandated for 
procurement via statute or Executive Order. Moreover, these draft 
Guidelines are not intended to discontinue or diminish procurement of 
products conforming to government standards and ecolabels. Existing 
mandates and government standards and ecolabels were influential in 
framing the draft Guidelines, especially guidelines regarding the 
environmental effectiveness of a standard's criteria. These standards 
and ecolabels were

[[Page 70940]]

later assessed for conformance with the draft Guidelines and found to 
align in principle (e.g., participatory process, transparency), 
considering the differences in administrative procedures of the 
government and of standards development organizations.
    Rather, EPA envisions that non-governmental standards and ecolabels 
determined to be in conformance with the Guidelines would supplement 
existing mandates and government standards and ecolabels. [For 
illustration purposes, ``product category x'' has a recovered content 
minimum of 20% per the EPA Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines (CPG) 
(section 6002 of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act). A multi-
attribute environmental performance standard for ``product category x'' 
is determined to conform to the Guidelines. Depending on the standard, 
Federal procurement officials could be informed that either (1) the 
non-governmental standard facilitates meeting the mandate (e.g., the 
standard includes the CPG requirement as a prerequisite) or (2) the 
non-governmental standard addresses important environmental 
considerations, but does not necessarily fully address the CPG 
requirement, so the standard could be specified in addition to the CPG 
requirement.]

B. How were these draft guidelines developed?

    In 2011 and 2012, EPA and the General Services Administration (GSA) 
convened several listening sessions to solicit input regarding the 
Federal Government's role in sustainability. A number of sessions were 
held following the release of the National Academy of Sciences report 
``Sustainability and the U.S. EPA.'' Other sessions were held under the 
auspices of the Interagency Workgroup established by GSA per section 13 
of Executive Order 13514: Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, 
and Economic Performance (74 FR 52117, October 8, 2009).
    EPA heard some common themes from suppliers, manufacturers, 
environmental organizations, multi-stakeholder bodies, regulatory 
partners, and others. Key points included: (1) The desire for greater 
clarity in the marketplace regarding standards and ecolabels and (2) 
the opportunity to leverage the Federal Government's purchasing power 
toward sustainability goals.
    The Interagency Workgroup developed an initial set of draft 
Guidelines and contracted with Big Room Inc. (developers of 
www.EcoLabelIndex.com) to test the feasibility and appropriateness of 
the draft Guidelines. Big Room Inc. conducted a survey of a subset of 
government and non-governmental environmental performance standards and 
ecolabel developers. Based on the results of the study and external 
stakeholder input, the Interagency workgroup revised the draft 
Guidelines.

C. Authorities

    EPA is issuing this notice pursuant to the authority in the 
Pollution Prevention Act [42 U.S.C.A. Sec.  13103(b)(11)] which 
requires EPA to ``Identify opportunities to use Federal procurement to 
encourage source reduction'' and Section 12(d) of the NTTAA, which 
requires Federal agencies to ``use technical standards that are 
developed or adopted by voluntary consensus standards bodies, using 
such technical standards as a means to carry out policy objectives or 
activities.''

III. Draft Guidelines

    The draft Guidelines are organized into the following four 
sections:
     Section I, ``Guidelines for the Process for Developing 
Standards'' addresses the procedures used to develop, maintain, and 
update a product environmental performance standard.
     Section II, ``Guidelines for the Environmental 
Effectiveness of Standards'' addresses the criteria in the standard or 
ecolabel that support the claim of environmental preferability.
     Section III, ``Guidelines for Conformity Assessment'' 
addresses the procedures and practices by which products are assessed 
for conformity to the criteria specified by standards and ecolabeling 
programs.
     Section IV, ``Guidelines for Management of Ecolabeling 
Programs'' addresses the organizational and management practices of an 
ecolabeling program.
    EPA recognizes that the level to which sustainability practices 
have been incorporated varies by industry sector and even from product 
category to product category. Therefore, a single, one-size-fits-all 
approach to assessing standards and ecolabels would not be appropriate 
or useful. To address differences among sectors, EPA is requesting 
comment on an approach that provides flexibility. For example, each 
draft Guideline has been designated either as ``baseline'' or 
``leadership.'' Based on initial analysis, draft ``baseline'' 
Guidelines align with Federal goals and requirements, are relatively 
straightforward to evaluate, and are applicable across industry 
sectors. Draft ``leadership'' Guidelines represent best practices and 
are currently achievable by some standards and ecolabels.
    Another example of the flexibilities EPA has considered arises with 
respect to the draft Guidelines sections addressing Conformity 
Assessment and Management of Ecolabeling Programs. Specifically, there 
may not be a marketplace need for a second or third-party conformity 
assessment program depending upon, among other factors, the degree of 
risk associated with a product's nonconformity to the standard. In 
those cases, a supplier's self-declaration of conformity would suffice. 
Similarly, there may not be a marketplace need for an ecolabel, 
depending upon the type of product and/or how it is procured. In those 
cases, the Guidelines for Management of Ecolabeling Programs would not 
apply.
    The proposed draft Guidelines and supplementary information can be 
found at http://www.epa.gov/epp/draftGuidelines.

IV. Pilot Program Under Consideration

    In addition to seeking input on the draft Guidelines themselves, 
EPA is seeking input on how standards and ecolabels should be assessed 
for conformance to the Guidelines if they are finalized and 
implemented. Based on discussions with stakeholders, EPA anticipates 
that a number of organizations may be positioned to respond to the need 
for assessment of standards and ecolabels for conformity with the 
Guidelines. Taking this into account, EPA is considering a limited 
pilot project, assuming sufficient appropriations are available, to 
test an assessment approach, especially with respect to Guidelines 
addressing the ``environmental effectiveness'' of a standard or 
ecolabel's criteria. During this pilot, EPA expects that an external 
entity (or entities) would convene and work with a multi-stakeholder 
panel (or panels) to develop product category-specific programs to 
assess conformity of standards and ecolabels with the Guidelines. The 
entity (or entities) would then conduct the assessments for selected 
product categories in a manner consistent with the International 
Organization for Standardization's Guides on conformity assessment, and 
develop a list of standards and ecolabels that conform to the 
Guidelines. The results from the pilot project would be made publicly 
available and EPA would evaluate the results to inform any future 
action such as making available a list of conforming standards and 
ecolabels for voluntary use by Federal agencies in procurement 
activities.

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    The external entity (or entities) would not perform any inherently 
governmental functions such as procurement policy, procurement 
decisions, or strategic implementation decisions.

V. Request for Comments

    EPA is seeking public input on the draft Guidelines and the concept 
of assessing non-governmental standards and ecolabels for voluntary use 
in Federal procurement. Recognizing that implementation of these draft 
Guidelines will call for additional stakeholder engagement and 
assessment processes, EPA also welcomes comment on the overall 
approach, including the potential pilot project. In particular:
    1. How might the Guidelines benefit the broader marketplace?
    2. Are there any draft Guidelines that should be removed or 
modified? Are there gaps in the draft Guidelines that could be 
addressed by a new Guideline(s)?
    3. Are the designations of ``baseline'' and ``leadership'' in the 
draft Guidelines understandable? Can the designations be easily 
implemented? Do they appropriately reflect varying approaches in the 
marketplace today?
    4. How should the leadership Guidelines be applied to standards and 
ecolabels in different product categories (e.g., different weightings 
in an overall conformity assessment scheme)?
    5. What processes, approaches, measures, and mechanisms should be 
used to determine conformance with the Guidelines, if they are 
finalized and implemented?
    6. Under what circumstances and under what authorities, if any, 
should the Federal Government require a particular type of conformity 
assessment to provide adequate confidence that the products have met a 
particular environmental performance standard or ecolabel?
    7. Are there alternatives to the pilot project that EPA should 
consider?
    8. If EPA were to move forward with a pilot project to test the 
proposed standards and ecolabels assessment approach, which product 
categories should be prioritized?
    9. What challenges need to be addressed/resolved in implementing 
the proposed Guidelines in order to be a transparent, fair, and 
consistent process?

List of Subjects

    Environmental protection, government procurement, standards, 
ecolabels, Guidelines.

    Dated: November 15, 2013.
James Jones,
Assistant Administrator, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution 
Prevention.
[FR Doc. 2013-28507 Filed 11-26-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 6560-50-P