In the 1970s, with the increased cost in fuel prices, many consumers turned to a more economical heating alternative—wood (a resource that has been around since the beginning of time). Consequently, in the early 1980s, federal EPA and state environmental offices set up air testing stations around our nation to study wood stove particulate pollution. Then on July 1, 1988, the EPA announced Phase 1 of its regulations to go into effect. All wood stoves manufactured after July 1, 1988, must have emitted fewer than 8.5 grams of particulate per hour. Existing inventories of non-approved stoves could be sold until July 1, 1990. On that date, Phase 2 of the EPA regulations went into effect, allowing new limits of 7.5 grams of particulate to be emitted. Existing inventories of Phase 1 stoves could be sold for the next two years, ending on July 1, 1992. After that date, all wood stoves sold in retail in the U.S. had to come into compliance with Phase 2 standards.
Basically, Phase 2 standards for wood-burning stoves have remained in effect from 1992 until today. This year the EPA proposed new regulations on wood stoves and fireplaces that would replace the current guidelines adopted in the 1980s and 1990s. The EPA claims these new requirements will reduce emissions by another 80 percent. However, because of the new regulations, it will make it extremely difficult on stove manufacturers and on consumers to heat their homes with wood. What the new regulations mean is that most wood stoves will now fall into a new class that would deem them unacceptable under the new measure.
The EPA has launched a new website to try to sway public opinion in their favor, attempting to convince people to get rid of their old stoves and buy the new EPA certified ones. All the old stoves traded in must be scrapped and may not be resold or reused.
Wood burning stoves have been used for years to efficiently heat homes at low fuel costs. The proposed measure would reduce emissions from newly manufactured wood burning or pellet burning units by 80% over the next five years and set requirements for newer technology not included under the previous Phase 1 or Phase 2 regulations. The new standards will cost consumers more and affect everything from high-efficiency units and anything wood burning that one would want to install to heat a home, including outdoor boilers, indoor fireplaces, high-efficiency fireplaces, wood stoves, pellet stoves, and any solid fuel burning stove. Newer wood burning units have been improved for efficiency and emission reduction by adding catalytic converters, but the stricter regulations would reduce the amount of allowable emitted particles even more.
Proponents argue that these new regulations will help with health problems caused by fine particles. Opponents argue that cleaner burning stoves and fireplaces made today already burn with hardly any smoke or particle emissions.
House Bill 1302 addresses the wood burning stove issue for Missourians, and in a bi-partisan effort it was overwhelmingly passed through the Missouri House. It is now on its way to the Missouri Senate. The bill prohibits the Missouri Department of Natural Resources from regulating the manufacturer, performance, or use of residential wood burning heaters or appliances unless first authorized by the Missouri General Assembly. HB 1302 was proposed after the EPA introduced a new rule change that would give manufacturers only five years to comply with tougher standards designed to reduce emissions by 80%.
One of the things that we focus on in Missouri is pushing back against what we believe to be an over-reaching federal government. When the EPA considers rules that treat wood burning stoves the same as coal fired power plants, we believe it is important to resist them. In Missouri, we have a huge industry that is built around timber and the burning of wood. We also have a number of wood stove manufacturers that could be adversely affected by this new regulation if it were allowed to go into effect. In addition, the regulation would double the cost of all new units, something we feel is totally unnecessary.