by Matt Prindiville, NRCM toxics project director
Good afternoon Senator Martin, Representative Koffman and members of the Committee on Natural Resources. My name is Matt Prindiville, and I’m the Toxics and Sustainable Production Project Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. NRCM strongly supports LD 2263 and we thank Senator Martin for bringing this bill before the Committee in attempt to solve what Representative Hamper referred to as “the elephant in the room” with regards to outdoor wood boilers.
In our comments before the Board of Environmental Protection and in our testimony on LD 2009, we stressed the need to address the air pollution and improper siting of existing problem-OWBs to protect the health of Maine families that were neighbors to poorly manufactured and ill-sited units. In addition, we urged that DEP be granted the necessary authority to protect the public by shutting down nuisance OWBs when there is credible evidence of serious impact to local, ambient air quality. We also expressed our understanding that current OWB owners bought their units in good faith from OWB retailers who sold them in good faith prior to the regulation, and that requirements to shut down boilers without compensation would add economic hardship to the Mainers who invested significant amounts of money to buy this home-heating technology.
Thankfully, Senator Martin has proposed an idea for a solution, and if funded properly, a new nuisance outdoor wood boiler buyback fund could mitigate the “worst of the worst” problem boilers in the state, and help solve issues like the situation on Beal’s Island. Indeed, this very concept has been used by EPA, through pilot programs, to help purchase and replace some of the worst, inefficient and polluting wood stoves in various parts of the country.
Before I get into discussing the fund and for obvious reasons, let me say that we strongly support the emergency powers clause granting authority to the Commissioner to issue “cease and desist” orders for serious problem OWBs that are fouling the air and endangering public health. This provision is critical to protecting the health of Maine people that currently are having difficulty living in their homes due to neighboring OWB pollution.
With regards to the fund, we fully support the funding options outlined in the bill. The provision adding the OWB fund to the list of funds for which civil penalties for violations of air quality laws can be distributed is an excellent idea. However, this bill unfortunately, and understandably given the state’s fiscal crisis, does not appropriate any money for this fund. And for the time being, it does not provide the necessary funds to deal with “elephants” like Beal’s Island.
While we can appreciate that time is short for discussing additional funding ideas and also that important stakeholders have not been consulted regarding new funding ideas, we think Representative Koffman’s suggestion of including a small fee for manufacturers was a good one, provided that it isn’t overly burdensome and sunsets rather quickly to reflect the presence of newer, cleaner-burning OWBs. This idea follows from the product stewardship legislation concerning electronic waste, mercury thermostats and mercury auto-switches,
which this committee pioneered, and which compels manufacturers to share in the environmental and health costs that their products create.
We have drafted an amendment that would assess a modest annual fee on manufacturers to raise revenues for the fund. The fee would progressively increase according to market share. It would sunset in 2019 unless the legislature voted to extend it. The size of the fees was based on the $200,000 figure that DEP believes it needs to buy back the 10-15 problem boilers in the state. DEP estimates that around 200 OWBs are sold annually in the State of Maine. If you break the $200,000 number down over 10 years factoring in 200 boilers sold annually, that cost would be roughly $50 per unit sold.
In the interest of full disclosure, we have not contacted the OWB industry about this amendment and believe that it may be premature at this moment to move forward with this idea. However, if you pass LD 2263, we will be monitoring the OWB buyback fund, and in 2 years, if there is not adequate funding and problems like Beal’s Island still persist around the state, we will recommend that this amendment be turned into legislation and will work to ensure that the public health and nuisance problems created by the worst OWBs are addressed.
NRCM recognizes the importance for Maine people being able to burn wood to heat their homes. We also understand that there are many poorly-manufactured, inefficient outdoor wood boilers that are inappropriately sited, and/or lacking pollution control devices, which are creating serious air pollution problems and endangering public health in communities across Maine. We applaud the committee for passing much-needed legislation to govern the use of new outdoor wood boilers in the State of Maine, and we urge you to pass this additional legislation to begin to address “the elephant in the room” and ensure that the problems associated with existing OWBs are mitigated.
Thank you for your time. I would happy to answer any questions you may have.