EPA Proposes Damper for Wood Stove Emissions

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As our cold, hard winter finally breaks across New England, many wood stoves will receive a well deserved rest. Far from relics, the U.S. Energy Information Agency estimates that nation-wide, 2.5 million households burn wood as their primary heat source and 9 million utilize wood as a secondary heating source. In states such as Maine, nearly 14% of households burn wood as a primary source of heat while over 50% use it for supplemental heating, according to U.S. Census figures. With such large numbers of households generating heat from wood, it should come as no surprise that new rules from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) putting a damper on wood stove emissions would stoke the fires of many New Englanders.

On January 3, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new emission standards for the regulation of residential wood heaters and stoves. EPA believes the new rule will take advantage of innovative technology to propose New Source Performance Standards producing more efficient and cleaner emitting stoves. The proposed Rules under § 111(b) of the Clean Air Act were last revised in 1988. The proposed rule does not affect existing stoves; it impacts how future stoves can be built. New heaters and stoves must not emit more than 4.5 grams of particulate matter per hour, ratcheting down to 1.3 grams per hour after five years (for reference, older stoves may produce 15 to 30 grams per hour while EPA-certified stoves emit 2 to 7 grams per hour).

The proposed rule could have a significant impact on the wood stove industry. Most manufacturers have developed efficient heating units that far surpass the 1988 standards, but believe the limits set in proposed rule will be prohibitively expensive to achieve or drive prices of new stoves beyond the reach of the average consumer. As an alternative, manufactures such as Norwegian-based JØtul, which maintains a plant in Gorham, Maine, have pointed to wood-stove swap programs (incentivized by a suite of rebates) as a more effective and practical means for improving air quality.

Recent efforts have attempted to forestall the rulemaking process. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer(R) of Missouri recently introduced a bill that would prevent EPA from enacting its new rules. Maine’s Governor Paul LePage (R) has also weighed in on the issue in a recent Wall Street Journal opinion article. Although both indicate a growing level of national attention, neither effort is likely to derail the rulemaking process. EPA’s comment period ends May 5, 2014 and the agency anticipates the proposed rule will be finalized in late 2014 or early 2015.

For more information on EPA’s Rule, contact Juliet Browne or Mat Todaro. Stay tuned to Verrill Dana’s Blog for future updates. 

Posted on April 18, 2014 .