New Regulations on Wood-Burning Stoves Could Leave Low-Income Households Out in the Cold

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The use of wood-burning stoves has long been a solution for high heating costs in homes across the country, and even though heating oil has been at an all-time low during the 2014-2015 winter, statistics show that homeowners have continued to make use of wood-burning heating alternatives whenever possible.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), on the other hand, isn’t a big fan of wood-burning heating systems; according to CBS Connecticut, the EPA is planning to limit pollution from wood-burning stoves with new regulations on the systems, signed into law just last week.

According to data collected by the EPA, heavily forested New England states including Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine are in the top five list of states with the most pollution from residential wood-burning stoves.

The new EPA regulations, the Columbus Dispatch states, would only apply to new wood-burning heaters and would be phased out over a five-year period. The regulations reportedly plan to reduce “fine-particle pollution from wood-burning stoves by almost 70% and save an average of one premature death per day,” the Dispatch explains.

Many people are in favor of the regulations — or at least, don’t see any problem with the restrictions — since the EPA hasn’t passed any official legislation on residential wood-burning heating systems since 1988, and the new regulations would not apply to wood-burning stoves already installed in homes.

Additionally, the safety standards of wood-burning stoves have continually improved even without federal regulation; many newer stoves even recycle smoke and soot emissions. Individual states have continued to regulate wood-burning heating systems despite the lack of federal regulations, ensuring that safety standards and energy-efficiency standards are up-to-date.

On the other hand, many Americans are already worried that the new EPA regulations could have a serious impact on countless low-income households that depend on wood-burning stoves for heat. It’s estimated that about 10% of the country now uses wood-burning stoves as their primary heating source.

Although federal regulations on wood-burning appliances may help “clear the air,” it’s impossible to say that the new regulations would make a substantial difference — considering how many homes and businesses still rely on heating systems powered by oil and gas — except that many low-income homeowners across the country could be left without heat.

Many states, including Missouri and Michigan, have already refused to comply with the EPA’s new regulations, according to CBS Connecticut. No New England states have given any official responses to the EPA regulations, but considering the precedent set by other states whose residents heavily rely on wood-burning stoves, it’s likely that more states will voice their concerns before the regulations are set in stone.

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