Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) doused a smoldering debate over whether to extend the time wood stove manufacturers have to comply with updated pollution control standards.
By allowing the new standards to take effect this month, the federal government appeared ready to phase out these heavy polluters for cleaner alternatives.
COVID-19, however, presented industry with just the cover needed to request that outdated regulations remain in place.
Based on industry requests that the pandemic will leave them with unsellable appliances that don’t meet the new standards, on May 15 the EPA issued a fast-tracked proposal that would provide an additional six months to sell non-compliant stoves.
The proposal notes assumed harm to businesses that still have stoves on the shelves (though provides no specific examples), but says about possible harm to public health: “We are unable to quantify what, if any, impacts there may be and seek public comments to help inform us of any potential impacts.”
Assuming an extension is granted, one of the most impactful public health policies I worked on while at EPA during the Obama administration will remain on the shelf, and people — rural communities in particular — will continue to suffer the deleterious effects of these devices.
A new stove can operate for decades, delivering tons of pollution to the homeowner’s family and neighbors. It’s especially ironic that the reason this extension is being granted is the economic fallout of a disease that places the lives of people with compromised lungs in jeopardy.
Wood stoves have been around for centuries. They can provide a cheap (homegrown sometimes) source of fuel for people not able to afford fuel or in remote locations that public utilities do not reach. They can last for years. They also pollute. A lot.