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7 AGs Object to EPA’s Proposal Delaying Phase Out of Dirty Wood Heaters

Proposed rule violates the Clean Air Act and will lead to increased harm to the public – including imposing costs between $90 million and $230 million in lost public health benefits, while saving industry just $10 million annually.

January 15, 2019
Contact: Christopher Gray

Washington, D.C.— A coalition of seven state attorneys general led by New York Attorney General Letitia James submitted comments yesterday strongly objecting to a proposed rule by the Environmental Protection Agency that would extend retailers’ ability to sell wood heaters responsible for high levels of air pollution. The EPA’s proposed rule would allow retailers to continue to sell new wood boilers and forced air furnaces that are out of compliance with the agency’s PM2.5 emissions standards, resulting in the potential for thousands of non-compliant and highly polluting units to operate for far longer than the law allows.

In their comments, the attorneys general discussed the dangers of PM2.5 emissions and noted the EPA’s own recognition in 2015 that setting limits on PM2.5 emissions for wood-burning heating devices would reduce premature deaths by 360 to 810 people, prevent 180 emergency room visits, and avoid 48,000 lost workdays. In this proposed rule, however, the agency fails to provide any justification for allowing the continued sale of highly polluting units and disregards the serious public health concerns associated with its proposed delay.

As just one example illustrating the importance of setting and enforcing limits on these devices, the AGs cited scientific data demonstrating that residential wood burning is responsible for more of the deadly PM2.5 air pollution in the State of New York than the electricity and transportation sectors, combined. Additionally, every noncompliant unit sold during the EPA’s proposed sell-through period will result in as much as two decades of dangerous air pollution given the units’ historic life expectancies.

“New York is the nation’s second largest consumer of wood for heating, and residential wood heating contributes more soot to New York’s air than the electricity generation and the transportation sectors combined,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James. “My office will continue to fight for clean air for all New Yorkers.”

“This proposed rule is yet another example of the Trump administration prioritizing negligible cost savings to industry above important public health benefits and the environment,” said Elizabeth Klein, Deputy Director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center. “State attorneys general have been at the forefront of this issue for decades, and have already taken two previous administrations to court over the EPA’s failure to regulate wood heaters. The AGs are putting the Trump administration on notice that they will continue to demand that EPA follow the law.”

State attorneys general from Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Vermont and Washington also joined the coalition.

The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center is a non-partisan Center at the NYU School of Law that is dedicated to working with state attorneys general to protect and advance clean energy, climate change, and environmental values and protections. It was launched in August 2017 with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies. For more information, visit our website.