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EPA wood stove rules ‘could be prohibitively expensive’

An EPA proposal to tighten emission standards for new wood stoves starting next year has created controversy across the nation and “could be prohibitively expensive,” according to Commissioner Patricia Aho of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

AHO

Aho

At a public hearing Feb. 26 in Boston, Aho testified that the stricter emission requirements could be a concern in Maine, where many rely on wood for heating, the Boston Globe reported. Other views of the proposed rules have appeared everywhere from Forbes (EPA’s Wood-Burning Stove Ban Has Chilling Consequences For Many Rural People) to Biomassmagazine (The EPA’s Myopia on Wood Heat).

Aho said the draft rule did not include all types of wood stoves and placed the burden of compliance on the shoulders of an aging Maine population. She noted that many residents burn wood because it is less expensive than heating oil.

The draft rule is the first time the EPA has update residential wood heating standards since 1988. It is set to become law in 2015. The EPA has a website for those who need more information or want to submit testimony

Pellet stovePeter Triandafillou, vice president for Huber Resources, reviewed the EPA proposal and submitted testimony (below), but he also summed up his thoughts in an email:

“As one might expect, the document is rather impenetrable,” Triandafillou wrote, ” I cannot intelligently comment on particulate size and concentration, but I will craft comments that stress the following:

  1.  Wood and pellet stoves are mostly used in rural settings where particulate concentrations are rarely an issue. The opposition will certainly bring up lousy air in small towns that have morning atmospheric inversions, but that’s a side show.
  2. A large fraction of wood users are in a low income demographic and live in poor counties. They depend on wood as a cost effective alternative to oil and propane heat.
  3. The proposed rules will make an already expensive appliance even more expensive. Pricing these appliances out of reach of the people that need them will cause hardship for little benefit.”

Triandafillou’s submitted  testimony:

Docket ID No. EPA–HQ–OAR–2009–0734
Federal Register Volume 79 Number 22 February 3, 2014
40 CFR Part 60

To whom it may concern:
I am submitting comments in opposition to the proposed new rules for wood heaters and related equipment. While the goal of reducing pollution from heating devices is laudable, the new rules will increase costs to the consumer for only marginal benefit.

Solid wood and wood pellets represent an important source of heat for rural households. These fuels are a lower cost alternative to the other common sources of heat in these areas: fuel oil and propane.

It is important to realize that many of the users of these fuels have low incomes and live in relatively poor counties. Solid wood and wood pellets are inconvenient compared to oil and propane. Wood is heavy and sometimes dirty. It has to be hand carried to the stove, and the heating appliance needs frequent cleaning and removal of ash. Many people who burn wood do so out of necessity, sacrificing the convenience of oil and propane for lower cost. For some with little disposable income, these cost savings can prevent real hardship.

Wood heaters are expensive appliances, and represent a huge investment for many consumers. Raising the price of appliances by hundreds or thousands of dollars, as is estimated in the document describing the proposed rules, will impose a significant economic hardship.

An unintended consequence of this increase in cost will be a reduction in air quality. Consumers will put off purchasing new, more efficient appliances, and in some cases will use appliances beyond their designed life span. This could create not only more pollution, but unsafe conditions. In addition, many homeowner insurance policies require conventional oil or gas appliances as backup devices for wood heat. Some homeowners who do not already have wood burning appliances will simply not be able to afford units that cost more because of the proposed rules. They will then be forced to burn more hydrocarbon based fuels instead of wood.

Any wood burning device can produce pollution if improperly operated. However, modern units are much more efficient and clean burning than old ones, and most of these devices are used in rural settings. Population density in these areas is mostly low, and except in a few instances, there is little chance for concentration of particulates or gases.

I believe the wood appliance industry has done an excellent job making their products safer and cleaner over the years, and a significant demographic of low income consumers depends on these devices. Increasing their cost will impose an economic hardship on these consumers, and may, through the delay of purchasing more expensive appliances have the opposite of the intended benefits.

Thank you for your time.

Peter Triandafillou

Peter Triandafillou
VP Woodlands
Huber Resources Corp
1141 Main Street
Old Town, ME 04468
207-827-7195 x127
p.triandafillou@huber.com

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