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EPA Takes Steps to Improve Regulations for Wood Heaters

Proposal would save $33 million in regulatory costs

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WASHINGTON  — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took key steps toward ensuring that the Agency’s new source performance standards (NSPS) for new residential wood heaters are based on real-world conditions. The proposed amendments would provide relief for consumers, retailers and manufacturers by allowing the sale of wood heaters that meet the latest emissions limits through May 2022. Over 90 percent of wood heating device manufacturers and retailers are small businesses. This action is expected to save approximately $33 million in regulatory costs from 2019 – 2022. 

“Extending the sale of new, Step 1-compliant wood heaters will provide manufacturers and retailers with much-needed certainty and will incentivize more Americans to purchase newer, cleaner heaters, which supports rural economies and improves air quality,” said EPA Acting Administrator Wheeler. “We are also taking comments on the testing methods underlying the Step 2 limit to ensure the standards are based on real-world conditions and do not deprive many rural Americans of affordable access to their primary source of heat.” 

“Maine applauds the EPA’s efforts to revise the 2015 Residential Wood Heater NSPS. We support the improvement of Step 2 wood heater emission standards to ensure they are based on reproducible testing methods using cord wood, which better represents real-life operations,” said Marc A. R. Cone P.E., Director, Bureau of Air Quality, Maine Department of Environmental Protection. “This provides opportunity to establish the most appropriate emission standards for each residential wood heater technology based on representative data and sound scientific methods.”

EPA’s proposed amendments to the 2015 NSPS for Residential Wood Heaters would provide consumers additional time to purchase already-manufactured wood-fired hydronic heaters and forced-air furnaces that meet the latest emissions limits before they are required to sell units that meet tighter limits due to take effect in 2020. The proposal would not change the effective date of the tighter emissions limits; however, it would allow retailers to “sell-through” or sell existing inventory of heaters meeting current emissions limits through May 2022. 

In a separate action, known as an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), EPA is seeking comments on several aspects of the 2015 rule, including the testing that is used to determine whether wood heaters meet EPA requirements. Since the 2015 rule was issued, EPA believes that current testing requirements may lead wood heater manufacturers to design appliances that do not reflect their actual use – and that may not achieve the environmental benefits contemplated in the rule. The 2015 rule is based on tests that burn standardized configurations of lumber, rather than tests that burn logs – the type of wood a typical homeowner would burn for heat.

The Agency is seeking comments on the existing testing method, along with comments on the 2020 compliance deadline for the tighter emission limits for forced-air furnaces, hydronic heaters, and wood stoves. EPA will review the comments on the ANPRM as it develops a second proposal covering these additional issues. Comments on the ANPRM will also help EPA as it develops test methods for wood heaters that are based on the type of firewood a typical homeowner burns. 

Today’s actions do not apply to wood heaters that are currently in use in people’s homes, or to fireplaces, backyard barbecues, chimineas, or fire pits. The proposed amendments would help ensure that, in the future, customers buying wood heaters anywhere in the United States will be able to choose from cleaner-burning models that operate in real-world conditions. 

EPA will take public comment on the proposed rule for 45 days and the ANPRM for 75 days after they are published in the Federal Register. The Agency will hold a public hearing on the proposed amendments to the 2015 rule in mid-December. 

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