The EPA has finalized a 344-page rule to make wood stoves more environmentally friendly, meaning that millions of Americans will soon be forced to buy more expensive wood-fired stoves.
Republican lawmakers have opposed the rule, saying it would harm millions in rural America that rely on wood stoves to heat their homes every winter. With natural gas and electricity prices on the rise, wood stoves can be an economical choice for many living in the countryside.
“The EPA’s shortsighted regulatory overreach is once again hitting hardworking Montanans in their pocketbooks,” said Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines.
Some 2.4 million American households rely on wood stoves for heat. When the agency proposed the rule last year, critics argued 80 percent of wood stoves in use would not meet tightened standards and consumers would never be able to buy them brand new — raising energy costs for millions of people during the coldest times of the year.
“Thousands of Montanans rely on wood burning stoves for affordable, cost-effective energy — yet once again, the EPA is moving forward with new, costly regulations that could stand in the way of Montanans’ access to new residential wood heaters or burden Montana families with higher costs,” Daines said.
But EPA claims the rule will save lives while only costing $45.7 million per year. EPA also argues that forcing people to ditch their wood stoves will result in 360 to 810 fewer death per year from reduced emissions of carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds.
“To the extent that children and other sensitive populations are particularly susceptible to asthma, and that minority populations and low-income populations are more vulnerable, this rule will significantly reduce the pollutants that adversely affect their health,” the EPA said in regulatory documents.
The finalized version of EPA’s rule also gives manufacturers more time to make and certify stoves that emit fewer pollutants. Politico’s Morning Energy notes that “[c]ompanies that make small wood-burning forced air furnaces will have to meet first-step emissions limits by 2016, with large furnaces having until 2017.”
“All sizes have to meet second-step limits by 2020,” reports Politico. “EPA will also allow conditional certification for up to a year for several devices if the manufacturer gets an EPA-accredited lab to certify an emissions test.”
Despite the EPA selling its final wood stove rule as more lenient, worries from lawmakers persist in states with frigid winters.
Wisconsin Republicans State Rep. David Craig and State Sen. Frank Lasee introduced legislation to prevent state regulators from implementing the EPA’s wood stove rules. Craig and Lasee argue the rule will only serve to raise energy prices for state residents and hurt manufacturers. Missouri has also introduced a law to block the EPA wood stove rule.
“The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to introduce regressive standards that hurt Wisconsinites, particularly low income families who rely on wood heat,” said Craig.
The wood stove lobby has also opposed the rule, saying the EPA “missed the mark” on certain issues.
“To be clear, our industry does not oppose new emission standards,” said Jack Goldman, president of the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association. “We simply want to ensure that these future standards produce a real clean air benefit that consumers can afford.”
“For example, some of the future standards proposed for wood-burning appliances do not meet the government’s duty to set standards based on data that shows both a tangible benefit to consumers and cost-effectiveness,” Goldman said. “From what we have learned from EPA about the final rule, the new standards for cordwood performance are of particular concern, since the Agency appears to have acknowledged that there are no cordwood test methods yet for many appliance categories, much less data using such test methods.”
But Goldman tried to ease concerns from lawmakers saying these new standards “do not affect appliances already owned by consumers or already in the marketplace.”