Before the Joint Committee on Natural Resources
by Matt Prindiville, NRCM Toxics Policy Advocate
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 Policy Advocate for the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
We applaud the committee for passing much-needed legislation to govern the use of outdoor wood boilers (OWBs) in the State of Maine, and we applaud DEP for constructing a careful and thoughtful process to create the rules before you today. We have no doubt that DEP staff have invested a considerable amount of time and energy and wanted to get this one right.
NRCM supports the rules before you as an important first step, but by no means the last step towards developing regulations that set clear standards for industry and adequately protect the health of Maine people. While we don’t want to keep these rules from moving forward, we do have serious concerns about the existing rules, and we believe additional rules are needed to address several issues.
1) With regards to air pollution from new units, the existing rulemaking would be substantially improved by adopting a grams per hour emission standard rather than a lb per million BTU standard as the current rules mandate. The grams per hour standard is much more protective of public health as it only allows a set prescribed amount of air pollution, and future rulemaking and any amendments should start with this standard. For example, the EPA certified wood stove program sets a standard of 4.5 grams per hour, which means that all wood stoves – regardless of how big they are or how much heat they generate – have to keep their particulate matter emissions below 4.5 grams an hour. By tying the current standard to heat output, the rules allow OWBs that create more heat to emit more air pollution, which is an unfortunate consequence of the lbs per million BTU standard.
2) Also, while we were pleased to see the sell-through exemption reduced from two years to one year under the current rulemaking, its inclusion essentially allows for the continued sale of certain OWBs – which under normal operating conditions pose a significant public health risk – regardless of their threat to Maine citizens and our environment. We believe the number of units sold – that don’t meet the Phase I emission standard – should be limited to avoid stockpiling of these problem OWBs.
3) In addition, other than by defining nuisance conditions and codifying prohibited fuels, the rules do very little to address the air pollution and improper siting of existing units. There are virtually no provisions in the rules to bring existing units into compliance with standards adequate to protect public health. Unfortunately, we see this as an avoidance of DEP’s responsibility to their mandate to protect public health and the environment, and as inconsistent with the language of the statute. Arguments have been made that the nuisance provisions go far enough to protect citizens from pollution caused by existing units, but as outlined in the memo to the board, most of the complaints (85%) occur with units located less than 250 feet from the property line. There are no provisions to require that existing units be properly sited or their pollution controls updated to reduce their impact on local ambient air quality. Also, from our understanding, very of few of the numerous complaints filed under existing nuisance law have been adequately addressed. These current problems are not going to go away unless DEP addresses them through rulemaking.
We understand that current OWB owners bought their units in good faith from OWB retailers who sold them in good faith, prior to this regulation. However, air pollution is air pollution. If we were talking about a home heating technology which had a discharge pipe, emitting harmful substances into a drinking water aquifer, the Department would have no problem pursuing enforcement actions or crafting rules to mitigate the pollution, regardless of the good faith transactions between businesses and consumers. The same should be true for a technology that fouls the air and impacts public health in a similar manner.
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 urge the Committee to approve the current rules, but also to initiate a rulemaking process to address pollution from existing units installed prior to rule promulgation.
Thank you for your time. I would happy to answer any questions you may have.