The Composites Fabricators Association of Arlington, Va., is preparing for the Sept. 25-28 Composites 2002 in Atlanta, continuing to pressure federal regulators and completing a merger.
On the regulatory front, the composites industry continues to discourage the Environmental Protection Agency from imposing a proposed strict styrene-emissions rule on new plants.
EPA published a draft of the rule in August 2001. A final version is expected in a few months. Meanwhile, discussions between the EPA and industry continue.
In May, the EPA agreed to exempt existing large plants from a provision to capture and control 95 percent of the emissions of styrene, and methyl methacrylate and methylene chloride. The threshold involves plants that emit at least 100 tons of styrene annually; plants emitting smaller amounts already were exempted.
``CFA has been completely engaged in this issue,'' CFA President Jonathan Spaulding said in a telephone interview.
Spaulding also is chief operating officer and president of North End Composites LLC of Rockland, Maine.
Industry began working with EPA regulators years ago. With major member-volunteer input, CFA orchestrated meetings with 150 members of Congress or their staffs and arranged for 24 members to press the EPA administration with questions about the proposed emissions rule.
CFA hopes to put the subject to bed and turn to other issues, Spaulding said. During the past five years, CFA has allocated more than $3 million to government affairs, largely on styrene regulatory issues.
CFA fully incorporates government affairs into its regular budget now, but for an unsettling two years it depended on overrun funding from a voluntary, member-supported Composites Advocacy Alliance.
``We relied on the positive nature of some members,'' Spaulding said. Now, ``instead of patching leaks, we put more in the budget.''
So far, CFA has not opted to form a political action committee. ``We feel it is beyond our scope,'' he said. ``Our resources would be better spent helping our members make their own visits'' to elected officials.
On the merger front, CFA and the International Cast Polymer Association were scheduled to combine Sept. 15.
``The activities of integrating have gone well,'' Spaulding said.
Plans to affiliate, announced in June, bring together groups with significant commonality, particularly in sources of unsaturated polyester resins and concerns with government regulations.
Within CFA, the group will be known as the International Cast Polymer Alliance, continuing its annual Polycon convention next Jan. 25-27 in Dallas, its bimonthly Cast Polymer Connection magazine and its eight regional chapters.
``We hope some of our members will start attending those [regional] meetings,'' said Missy Henriksen, CFA executive director.
CFA gains 300 new, unduplicated company memberships, bringing its total to 1,100.
The cast polymer members make, supply, fabricate and install cultured marble, granite, onyx and solid-surface kitchen and bath products.
Those members are the latest in CFA's growing panoply of industry-niche divisions, alliances and councils.
CFA operates with a staff of 24 employees and independent contractors, an increase from 18 a year earlier.
The cast polymer affiliation accounted for a net increase of three. One employee will handle cast polymer alliance matters only, and the others are joining the meetings department and magazine staff. CFA is applying its ``full horsepower'' behind the alliance as needed, ``and we will take advantage of the added staff at other times of the year,'' Henriksen said.
CFA expended $3.7 million in the fiscal year ended June 30 and has a budget of $5 million for the current fiscal year. The bulk of the increase relates to including ICPA activities for 91/2 months.
Separately, CFA supports an ad hoc group of members seeking to alter fire-code standards on the storage of flammable liquids. CFA provided $20,000 in seed money in mid-2000.
Under current codes, limits exist on storage of polyester resin without an extensive sprinkler system, but the restriction is based on heptane, a much more volatile, highly flammable liquid hydrocarbon.
Members maintain that polyester does not have similar combustibility.
The industry has spent another $230,000 for materials and testing at Omega Point Laboratories Inc. in Elmendorf, Texas, and Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.
The standards-setting National Fire Prevention Association is gathering comments on a proposal set for a May ballot. A change could reduce industry's costs of meeting fire-code standards in existing sites and new construction.
CFA is extending its certification program, which currently offers examination for five categories of Certified Composites Technician.
Study courses and exams for Certified Composites Manager aim to enhance technical and supervisory skills and extend the educational program up the chain of command.
Former football coach Jimmy Johnson will be the keynote speaker at Composites 2002. The event will be collocated for a second year with the National Marine Manufacturers Association's BoatBuilding 2002. CFA said it expects 6,000 people to attend.