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Eye on the EPA: “Polar Vortex” Edition
EPA to Place Restrictions on Residential Wood Heaters
January 9, 2014

Days before the nation hit record-breaking low temperatures, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its proposed standards for newly manufactured woodstoves and heaters. The standards are expanded for the first time beyond woodstoves to include indoor and outdoor wood furnaces and boilers, fireplace inserts, and masonry heaters, making it expensive to change the way they are manufactured. Nearly 12 million U.S. households heat their homes with these aforementioned units.

No New Woodstoves...brrrr

Record-breaking low temperatures hit many places across the U.S. this week. Logically, furnaces and heaters were cranked up throughout the week, and the 12 million U.S. households heated their home with woodstoves or similar devices burned a lot of wood. New devices manufactured to meet EPA's standard, however, could soon be unaffordable for the average American who relies on these heat sources.

The EPA acknowledged in their Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) that the new standard is an economically significant rule as defined by Executive Order 12866, meaning the rule will have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more, and the impact will primarily fall on small businesses, small local governments, and small organizations. The RIA estimates that each of those entities forced to comply with the new standards would see cost increases of $127,000 annually. The EPA is encouraging entities to replace older heaters with new heaters, but the added financial burden could limit consumers' ability to obtain new heating units.

Litigation Drives Regulation

On August 1, 2013, the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense Fund, Clean Air Council, and Environment and Human Health, Inc. issued a Notice of Intent to Sue EPA for failing to conduct a timely review of the New Source Performance Standards for residential wood heaters. On October 9, 2013, seven states (NY, CT, VT, MA, MD, OR, RI) officially filed a complaint suing EPA, and the environmental groups intervened in the case, demanding that EPA propose and finalize the rule by a certain deadline. Despite a court scheduled conference for February 3, 2013, EPA and DOJ are currently negotiating a settlement agreement with the aforementioned groups. Therefore, the timing of the new rule suggests that EPA issued this proposal because of pressure from the groups suing - a typical "sue and settle" tactic.

During the first term of the Obama Administration, EPA entered into more than 60 "sue and settle" agreements with environmental allies, including 34 lawsuits by Sierra Club, 20 by WildEarth Guardians, and nine from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Often, environmentalists are rewarded with having their legal fees paid for by the American taxpayers. These agreements, and thus environmental activists, have effectively dictated EPA policy.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Republicans have investigated the Administration's "sue and settle" strategy. Click here to read more.

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