New Englanders feeding their wood stoves in a struggle against the sub-zero temperatures have something new to read, because EPA has proposed new emission limits on residential wood-burning heaters. While more than twelve million U.S. homes rely on wood stoves for heat, they account for 13% of all soot pollution in the country and produce smoke that can increase toxic air pollution, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, and soot, also known as particle pollution or PM2.5. This particulate matter has been linked to asthma, cardiovascular disease, and short-term irritation of the eyes, throat, and lungs. EPA estimates that every dollar spent to comply with these standards will correlate to $118 to $267 in health benefits.
Pursuant to Section 11 of the Clean Air Act, EPA is required to update New Source Performance Standards every eight years, but this is the first change since the rule was proposed 25 years ago. This lapse prompted seven states (New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont) and environmental groups to file a suit in late 2013 to compel EPA to amend the standard.
The proposed changes would increase the efficiency of new wood heaters, fireplace inserts, outdoor wood boilers, and masonry heaters that burn wood or pellets by as much as 80%. EPA estimates that the increased efficiency will require less wood and will create $1.8 to $2.4 billion in health and economic benefits. Manufacturers will be required to meet an initial reduction within 60 days but will have five years to come into full compliance with the new standards.
Once EPA publishes the rule in the Federal Register, the public will have 90 days to comment on the proposed changes.