Rhode Island residents and legislators have some innovative ways to combat the residential hydronic boilers that are often highly polluting. H5783, which went through numerous changes, required anyone selling or renting property with a traditional hydronic heater to remove it, as Oregon does with non-EPA certified stoves.
The bill would also require traditional hydronic heaters to be located at least 150 feet from the nearest property, requiring some owners to move or potentially stop using their boiler.
However, the bill did not pass during the 2011 session. Rhode Island is that last northeastern state to establish property setbacks for hydronic heaters. The leading hydronic heater company, Central Boiler, has vigorously lobbied against various bills that would have provided regulations for outdoor boilers. They have also taken out paid ads urging boiler owners to contact their elected representatives.
The Alliance for Green Heat believes that H5783 Substitute A was a very reasonable bill that balanced the interests of stakeholders. It required that only Phase 2 boilers could be installed after January 1, 2012 and established a 150-foot property set back requirement, which is more than Central Boiler wants but less than what air quality experts are advocating for. Pennsylvania recently adopted a 150-foot rule.
The bill did not have any seasonal restrictions such as the ones that Indiana and areas in Massachusetts have successfully included in their regulations, nor does it have other protections. However, the phase out provision that requires removal upon sale or rental of home is a promising provision that should be considered by all states.
Traditional hydronic heaters that are not qualified under the EPA’s voluntary program are viewed as the scourge of residential wood heating by many in the US, including some within the wood heat industry. States that have not passed bills establishing set backs and other important protections should do so, and they should look at some of the provisions in H5783. We believe H5783 could have been even stronger, but too often bills in places like Rhode Island and Connecticut have failed because companies like Central Boiler have resources to stop them while clean air advocates were pushing for measures that were politically unrealistic.
This is at least the third year that the Rhode Island legislature has failed to pass a hydronic heater bill, leaving their constituents vulnerable to excessive wood smoke. We hope next year the legislature will muster the common sense to do what all other states in the Northeast have already done.