Maine DEP Commissioner Testifies at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Public Hearing in Boston on Draft Rule on Residential Wood Heaters

February 26, 2014

Contact: Jessamine Logan (207) 287-5842

- This is the Environmental Protection Agency’s first update to the 1988 Residential Wood Heater New Source Performance Standards and would have wide ranging impacts to the State of Maine. The rule covers all wood, pellet and single burn rate stoves, outdoor and indoor wood boilers and masonry heaters, also known as Russian Fireplaces. -

BOSTON - Maine Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Patricia Aho testified this morning in Boston at the EPA’s only public hearing on its draft rule for residential wood burning devices.

As written the draft rule would have far reaching effects on the State of Maine’s citizens, forest products industry, related manufacturers and the range of small businesses who exist to meet needs related to residential wood burning.

“As the Governor of a state where people in our rural counties depend on wood as a heating source, I know just how much the Environmental Protection Agency’s draft rule for residential wood heaters jeopardizes Maine’s future economic and environmental success and burdens the state’s most vulnerable,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “The draft rule would not fulfill its purpose to reduce the amount of harmful wood smoke in the air – and in fact, would do just the opposite, making it prohibitively expensive for homeowners to purchase a new, more efficient stove.”

A significant source of particulate matter is from wood stoves that were manufactured before EPA’s first residential wood stove rule in 1988. The department has rules in place for a wood stove change-out program though it lacks funding. EPA’s draft rule does not focus on removing the older, inefficient devices from the second-hand market place.

“I’m proud to support steps to ensure consumers have choices in the marketplace which improve efficiency and environmental performance,” said DEP Commissioner Aho. “The department has been meeting with a wide-range of Maine small businesses including pellet manufacturers, wood stove manufacturers, chimney sweeps and stove dealers, to fully understand how EPA’s draft rule would affect them and to ensure we incorporate their feedback before the State submitted comments to EPA.”

Under the current rule, there is a different emission standard for catalytic and non-catalytic stoves; however, EPA provides no distinction in the draft rule. This causes concern because each version has different advantages and disadvantages and in reality are not the same type of stove. As drafted, the rule could effectively eliminate non-catalytic stoves from the marketplace.

“The department maintains that EPA’s proposal would deter homeowners with older, non-certified stoves, which are a high source of emissions, from purchasing new units due to the space limitations, ease of use and associated costs to purchase, maintain and operate,” said DEP Commissioner Aho.

Other concerns with the draft rule are outlined in the following scenario: If a homeowner purchases and installs a catalytic wood stove to replace an older, dirtier stove, and does not have the financial ability to install and/or maintain the unit according to manufacturer specifications, including catalyst replacement, the owner would be in violation of federal regulations because of financial capacity or lack thereof.

In addition, under the EPA draft rule every homeowner burning anything other than dry wood as specified by the owner’s manual would be committing a federal offense. This burden would fall on all types of homeowners, creating an unrealistic compliance nightmare.

Several Maine firewood dealers have found that this winter, many homeowners have used up their winter’s wood supply before the end of January. Though these homeowners have done their best to purchase supplemental firewood to carry them through the rest of the winter, there is virtually no dry firewood available right now. Thus, citizens would be hard pressed to continue to heat with wood and remain within the law.

EPA limited the speakers to five minutes at the public hearing, thus, DEP will be submitting more substantial and thorough written comments to EPA before the May 5, 2014 deadline.

Following is the full text of Commissioner Aho’s remarks:

Testimony of Commissioner Patricia Aho

EPA Public Hearing on Residential Wood Heater New Source Performance Standards

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on the proposed Residential Wood Heater New Source Performance Standards. The people of Maine take pride and value that we meet all National Ambient Air Quality Standards. We are appreciative of efforts both large and small, to protect this vital natural resource for our state and for our nation.

Maine supports regulations that result in more efficient and environmentally beneficial wood-burning devices and agrees with the draft rule’s goal to reduce the amount of wood smoke in our air. However, as proposed, the rule creates a number of concerns for our State’s citizens, our forest products industry, related manufacturers, and the range of small businesses who exist to meet needs related to residential wood burning in our predominantly rural state.

It is the unintended consequences of this regulation as proposed which I bring to your attention today.

The proposal restricts consumer options.

We emphatically defend homeowners’ rights to choices by which to improve efficiency and environmental performance of their home heating devices. The proposed standards do not appropriately consider the differences between catalytic and non-catalytic wood stoves in design or actual operation. A non-catalyst stove is more straightforward to operate and requires less maintenance, making it a much more attractive and viable option for most homeowners.

New, non-catalytic wood stoves offer very efficient, easy-to-operate, and affordable options while still providing environmental benefits. The State of Maine, demographically the oldest in the nation and with most of our seniors on a fixed income, is a significant user of wood for residential heating purposes; we consider ease of operation and affordability very important factors.

The behavior of the operator and the quality of the fuel are much more important than the technology of the stove in influencing the final emissions from the unit. Regulations discouraging easier-to-use technology will ultimately be counterproductive in the pursuit of reduced air emissions.

Another unintended consequence of the proposal is the creation of a disincentive for those considering the replacement of their current wood stoves and furnaces with more efficient devices.

Data shows that pollution from very old, inefficient wood stoves is a very significant source of particulate matter pollution.

If this regulation forces the market to shift further to catalyst-equipped wood stoves, as is expected, consumers will be reluctant to replace older units with new ones because catalytic stoves are more expensive to purchase and maintain, and catalysts must be replaced throughout the lifespan of the device. Furthermore, if catalysts are not maintained and replaced as directed by the manufacturer, pollution could be as bad as or worse than pollution from the older stove which was replaced.

Some homes may not be able to upgrade at all, due to the specific installation requirements of catalyst stoves and the size, dimensions, and configuration of the chimney and the interior space of a home. Indeed, this proposal actually creates a market disadvantage for persons to upgrade because of physical limitations of homes, increased costs of installation of new units, and potentially increased difficulty of operation of certain types of stoves.

Maine supports providing incentives to encourage consumers with very old, inefficient stoves to replace them with new, more efficient wood stoves. Funding opportunities should be developed to provide assistance and incentives for older wood stove change-out programs. This approach would also alleviate concerns about the marketing and resale of second-hand, non-certified wood burning units.

A seemingly overlooked consequence is that the proposed NSPS identifies any operation of a residential wood burning unit, other than as specified in the owner’s manual, including the types of fuels specified for each unit as a violation of federal law. Homeowners who burn anything other than dry wood as specified by the owner’s manual would be committing a federal offense. This is a very harsh standard to establish with unrealistic expectations of compliance. Maine disagrees with the severity of this and requests that EPA reconsider this requirement.

The proposal also raises serious concerns for our manufacturers.

The proposal requires manufacturers to upgrade their designs and corresponding production systems at significant cost based on technology and testing methods which are yet to be finalized. Something as critical as methods to demonstrate compliance with this – or any – NSPS should not remain unidentified and left to future resolution.

The proposed regulation also influences well beyond manufacturers, reaching and impacting a significant number of small businesses such as retailers of wood burning units, installers, fabricators, all elements of the forest products industry which provide fuel for these units, and suppliers to the wood industry. Restriction of the use of wood and wood products (such as pellets) as fuels could potentially have devastating impacts resounding deeply into the lives of people in Maine’s forest products industry, every household which burns wood for heat, and the very culture and fabric that make up our State and this nation.

Maine strongly encourages EPA to refine this regulation to include reasonableness such that newer, cleaner wood stoves are a benefit to the consumer, with no compromise to heating ability, no increase in difficulty of operation, and which are not prohibitively expensive; and such that actual health benefits are realized.

Again, thank you for this opportunity, and I welcome any questions you may have.