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Clean Air Standards for New Wood Boilers and Furnaces

Case Number # 2566

National health and environmental groups have filed a legal challenge to require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to update clean air standards that limit emissions from new outdoor wood boilers, furnaces and other similar sources that discharge large volumes of smoke and soot. This review is 17 years overdue, resulting in increased exposure to harmful smoke and soot in communities across the nation despite the wide availability of cleaner technologies.

Earthjustice, on behalf of the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense Fund, Clean Air Council, and Environment and Human Health, Inc., filed a lawsuit over the EPA’s failure to update emissions standards for new wood-burning boilers, furnaces and other similar high-emitting sources of dangerous soot as required by the Clean Air Act. The complaint asks the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to order EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to review and revise the standards. Filing a similar complaint were the states of New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.

When the EPA last set pollution limits on new wood-burning devices in 1988, the Agency determined that these devices “contribute significantly to air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health and welfare.” The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to review emissions standards for health harming sources of air pollution every 8 years. Under the law, the EPA should have reviewed and updated the standards in 1996, 2004 and 2012.

EPA’s failure to update the standards means that homeowners install thousands of new wood-burning boilers, furnaces and stoves each year that produce far more dangerous air pollution than cleaner units would. Emissions from high polluting devices include particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, hazardous air pollutants and carcinogens. The revised standards would only apply to new units, and would not affect existing sources.

EPA’s standards of performance do not reflect improvements in technology available widely today. For example, the State of Washington requires wood-burning devices to meet PM emission standards that are 40 percent more stringent than EPA’s standards. Moreover, EPA’s own data shows that many current devices far surpass even the Washington standards. Some widely-sold wood-burning devices, such as large outdoor wood boilers, are not covered at all by EPA’s current standards.

Press Releases

Thursday, October 10, 2013
Groups seek clean air solutions to protect health of communities and families from dangerous soot