[Editor’s Note: The writer is president of The Americans For Limited Government Foundation.]
In a blow to innovation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has denied a petition to reconsider a restrictive regulation dealing with wood stoves and the types of wood burned in them.
The regulation, finalized by the EPA last year, made changes to the emission standards applicable to residential wood stoves, in bureaucratic speak, “residential wood combustion devices.”
The petition was filed by Richard S. Burns & Company, Inc., a Philadelphia waste management firm that challenged the EPA’s prohibition on making wood pellets and chipped wood from the “clean wood” which is removed from construction sites. The EPA’s regulation does not allow clean wood from “construction or demolition” to be used because it is considered a “prohibited fuel.”
The company asserted that it has the ability to separate out wood from other materials, and that this wood could be recycled into products suitable to be burned in wood stoves. The EPA denied the petition, and effectively mandated that these materials be sent to landfills instead. In its denial, the EPA claimed that the cost to those like the petitioner to make “clean wood” fuels as requested would be expensive. “The EPA does not believe this cost on the industry is justified.” This, despite the fact that the costs would be borne by industry volunteers who believe they can product a product that meets the EPA’s standards.
The EPA is saying, in essence, “we don’t believe you can, so we’re not going to let you try.”
The regulation at issue is a long and complex, but a couple other areas are worth noting.
If you manufacture a wood stove that is to be sold in Canada or Russia, the regulation does not affect you. “Affected wood heaters manufactured in the United States for export are exempt from the applicable emission limits.” So, the Canadians and Russians can get an affordable wood stove from a U.S. manufacturer, but a North Carolinian can only buy one that complies with the 83 page regulation which is further explained by the 203 page regulatory impact analysis.
According to the EPA, the average price for a wood stove is $848. In its regulatory analysis the EPA noted that commenters had suggested that this regulation would increase the cost to bring a new model to market by up to 25% driving price well above $1,000.00. That is a significant increase that must be passed along to the homeowner in order for the manufacturer to survive as the EPA estimates that they have profit margins of a little over 4%.
Representative David Rouzer of North Carolina has offered legislation which would repeal the wood stove regulation arguing, “The EPA has no business meddling with how wood heaters are made — much less putting in place new regulations that would effectively price them out of the market. More and more families are using wood heaters to help lower their energy costs during these tough economic times. That’s why, it’s imperative Congress continue working together to strike down these unnecessary regulations.”
The regulation applies testing standards that must be met before any new wood stoves can be sold. Old wood stoves are not covered by the regulation, so if your house has an existing one you do not have to worry unless you need or want to replace it.
Evidencing the EPA’s desire to micro-manage personal behavior, the regulation even places personal prohibitions on homeowners who use one of these new stoves. “No person is permitted to burn any of the following materials in an affected wood heater…. paper products…”
There is an exception; you are allowed to use paper to start a fire. “The prohibition against burning these materials does not prohibit the use of fire starters made from paper.” If you use the paper to start a fire you are fine, but if the fire is already burning it is illegal for you to use paper any longer. While the EPA goes to great lengths to describe the emission standards, they do not provide any explanation as to the exact moment when the fire is large enough so that the continued use of paper to make the fire larger is prohibited. There are also restrictions on the types of wood homeowners can use. They “will be required to use only the grades of pellet fuels and wood chips that are included in the owner’s manual based on the heater/stove certification tests.”
How prohibitions on homeowners regarding paper and wood are to be enforced is not exactly clear from the regulation, but expect the EPA to find a way.
This whole thing is absurd. Federal government, leave our wood stoves alone.