Wood Heater Makers Push Back Against Tighter Pollution Rules
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plans to tighten emissions standards is being met with resistance from wood heater manufacturers. In 2015, the EPA made significant regulatory changes to the residential wood heating appliance industry when it required limited emissions from wood heaters to 4.5 grams/hour. It was the first major change in pollution standards since 1988.
Wood heater manufactures improved technology to comply with the EPA’s 2015 pollution standards and produced cleaner wood-burning heating appliances. It is estimated that this has reduced up to 90% of harmful particulates being released into the atmosphere.
It is not uncommon to notice smoke billowing out of the chimney when homeowners are using their fireplaces and other wood heating appliances to warm their home. And while smoke may have a pleasing and fragrant aroma, it contains a variety of contaminants that are naturally produced during the combustion process. These contaminants like benzene, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide, for example, can be harmful for individuals and the environment when they are released into the atmosphere. Individuals with allergies and respiratory issues are especially sensitive to air pollution.
The EPA’s 2015 pollution standard was scheduled to be phased in as a two-step process with the second-step scheduled to take effect in 2020. Known as the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS), the final rule requires residential wood heater manufacturers to limit emissions to no more than 2 grams per hour, a 160 percent increase in efficiency.
But manufacturers say it is too much too soon. Its not that they are resisting efforts to produce cleaner wood burning appliances than they are now, they need more time to develop the technology that will enable them to comply with these stricter standards.
The Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA) an industry trade group representing wood heater manufacturers, filed a lawsuit challenging the EPA’s proposed final rule. As a result of the litigation, the EPA is reviewing its final rule and will reopen it for public comment which may resolve some of the issues. In addition, U.S. Rep Collin Peterson (DFL-MN) introduced a bill, H.R. 453, that will provide a 3-year delay of the EPA 2020 final rule, giving manufacturers some much needed breathing room to comply. It passed the House of Representatives on March 7, 2018. It is now awaiting Senate approval.
The EPA estimates that the final rule will reduce fine particle and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions by 70% and reduce carbon monoxide emissions from wood heaters by 62%. It also estimates it will cost the industry $46 million to comply with the final rule. The EPA is projecting that every dollar it costs to comply will return $74 to $165 in benefits. However, the HPBA estimates the final rule will add $1,000 to $1,500 to the purchase price of each unit.
When the EPA NSPS 2020 final rule eventually takes effect, it will only apply to new residential wood heating appliances and forced air furnaces. Consumers can review the product labeling to determine the emission standard of the appliance they plan to purchase.