New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, is trying to clear the air by suing the Environmental Protection Agency. Along with his counterparts from six other states, Schneiderman claims the EPA has failed to cap emissions from residential wood-burning heaters. That failure, the lawsuit contends, is a violation of the Clean Air Act.
“EPA’s regulations simply haven’t kept pace with the proliferation of wood-burning devices or the availability of cleaner-burning units,” Schneiderman said in a news release. “Smoke from residential wood-burning heaters poses a serious health threat, especially in New York’s rural communities. This lawsuit aims to force the EPA to comply with the Clean Air Act and provide overdue leadership in requiring new wood heaters to meet stricter pollution standards – an action that will save consumers money, improve local air quality and safeguard public health.”
Wood smoke, in small doses, at least, smells nice and conjures thoughts of cozy autumn nights around the fire place. But it can also be an irritant and carries pollutants that, the AG says, are “linked to serious public health impacts, including asthma attacks, heart attacks and premature death.”
Wood-burning heaters and boilers, smoky though they may be, have their benefits, too. Chief among them: they don’t burn oil or gas. If you’ve got a bit of land and some trees to spare, you can harvest your own fuel. It’s not known how many outdoor wood furnaces there are in the Lower Hudson Valley; Schneiderman’s release cites a 2008 study that counted 14,500 outdoor wood boilers sold in New York between 1999 and 2007.
Joining New York in the lawsuit are Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont. The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency is on board, too.
It might be some time before they get a response from the EPA. With the federal government shut down, agencies like the EPA are largely shuttered.
Residents of the Putnam, Rockland and Westchester: Do you have a wood-fired, outdoor furnace? What do like/dislike about it? What are your thoughts on the lawsuit? Leave a note in the comments section or email me, Ned, at firstname.lastname@example.org.