WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is finalizing standards to limit the amount of pollution wood heaters can emit. These standards, which were last updated in 1988, reflect the significantly improved technologies available to make a range of models cleaner-burning and more efficient. The final rule will provide important health benefits to communities across the country and will be phased in over a five-year period, giving manufacturers time to adapt their product lines to develop the best next-generation models to meet these new standards. The final rule does not affect current heaters already in use in homes today. It also does not replace state or local requirements governing wood heater use. Instead, it ensures consumers buying wood heaters anywhere in the U.S. will be able to choose from cleaner-burning models.

Wood heaters, which are used around the clock in some areas, can increase particle pollution, sometimes called soot, to levels that pose serious health concerns. Particle pollution is linked to a wide range of serious health effects, including heart attacks, strokes, and asthma attacks. People with heart, vascular, or lung disease; older adults; and children are the most at risk from particle pollution exposure. Smoke from wood heaters also includes volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide, and air toxins. EPA’s updated standards will build on the work that states and local communities have done to improve air quality in these communities and are based on significant improvements in technology.

Emissions from new models will be reduced by roughly two-thirds, improving air quality and providing between $3.4 and $7.6 billion in public health benefits. This means that for every dollar spent to bring cleaner heaters to market, the American public will see between $74 and $165 in health benefits. Consumers purchasing new models will also benefit from efficiency improvements, which means they will use less wood to heat their homes. Consumers can play an important role in cutting pollution by following the guidelines in their owner’s manuals and following best burning practices available on EPA’s website.

The EPA conducted extensive public outreach as it developed the proposed rule, seeking input from numerous wood heater manufacturers; state, local, and tribal governments; regional air quality agencies; and citizen and environmental groups. The agency also participated in a Small Business Advocacy Review Panel to seek input and advice as it developed the proposed rule.

Based on public comments and additional information submitted to the agency, the final standards make a number of important updates from the proposal including changes to provide manufacturers the time and flexibility they need to ensure a smooth transition to cleaner heaters. The EPA is also updating the final emissions limits to reflect changes the agency made to the emissions test method requirements based on input received during the comment period.

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set new source performance standards (NSPS) for categories of stationary sources of pollution that cause, or significantly contribute to, air pollution that may endanger public health or welfare. The agency’s final announced rule updates the 1988 standards for woodstoves and sets the first-ever federal standards for hydronic heaters, wood-fired forced-air furnaces (also called warm-air furnaces), pellet stoves, and a previously unregulated type of woodstove called a single burn-rate stove. These standards do not cover fireplaces, fire pits, pizza ovens, barbecues, or chimneys.

The EPA received nearly 8,000 comments on the proposed rule and held one public hearing.

Publication date: 3/2/2015 

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