That cozy woodstove you’re curled up next to will be illegal in a few years, if the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency follows through on plans announced today to issue new air pollution rules targeting wood burning home heaters.
The new rules, announced Jan. 3, would require woodstove manufacturers to reduce the amount of particulate matter, i.e. smoke, emitted by the stoves by 25%, which the agency says would make the next generation of heaters 80% cleaner than the ones on the market today.
Last fall, attorneys general Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont sued the EPA to force the agency to regulate wood-burning home heaters, claiming they increase particle pollution to levels that cause significant health problems, according to news reports.
According to the proposal, new wood stoves coming to market in 2015 would have to meet tougher emissions requirements reducing the amount of particulate matter from the current requirement of 15 micrograms per cubic meter of air to 12 micrograms.
“Smoke from residential wood heaters, which are used around the clock in some communities, can increase toxic air pollution, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide and soot, also known as particle pollution, to levels that pose serious health concerns,” the agency said in a Jan. 3 announcement. “Particle pollution is linked to a wide range of serious health effects, including heart attacks, strokes and asthma attacks. In some areas, residential wood smoke makes up a significant portion of the fine particle pollution problem.”
The proposal covers several types of new wood-fired heaters, including: woodstoves, fireplace inserts, indoor and outdoor wood boilers, or hydronic heaters, forced air furnaces and masonry heaters. The EPA announcement noted that many residential wood heaters already meet the first set of proposed standards, which would be phased in over five years to allow manufacturers time to adapt emission control technologies to their particular model lines.
While the agency says the new rules will not affect woodstoves and other heaters currently in use today, owners of those stoves would not be able to sell or trade in the older stoves for new compliant ones. According to the Census Bureau’s 2011 American Housing Survey, 2.4 million homes are heated by wood, compared to about 11 million with fuel oil and 130 million with electricity.
The Jan. 3 proposal does not cover fireplaces, fire pits, pizza ovens, barbecues and chimineas.
The agency claims every dollar spent complying with the new rules will translate to between $118 and $267 in health benefits. Consumers will also see a monetary benefit from efficiency improvements in the new woodstoves, which use less wood to heat homes. The total health and economic benefits of the proposed standards are estimated to be at $1.8 to $2.4 billion annually.
EPA will take comment on the proposal for 90 days after it is published in the Federal Register. The agency will hold a public hearing Feb. 26 in Boston. A final rule is expected in 2015.