Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Wood Stove Bill in Rhode Island Should be Model for all States

A Rhode Island bill, HB 7371, would make the state the first eastern state to adopt the progressive policies of Washington and Oregon on wood stoves. The bill, introduced by representative Art Handy and four other delegates, would phase-out wood stoves without EPA certification in densely populated residential areas.

House bill no.7371 states that beginning on January 1, 2013, an individual must obtain a permit before installing a wood stove in any residential home. Permits will only be issued for EPA certified models unless they are 50 feet from any lot line and 200 feet from a neighboring home. Property owners cannot sell, rent, or lease any home with an uncertified stove that is less than 50 feet from any lot line and 200 feet from a neighboring home. Additionally, only "clean wood" can be burned, meaning natural wood free of chemical paints, varnishes, preservatives, resins, or glues.

Washington and Oregon go even further than the Rhode Island bill, by applying to all stoves in all areas of the state – not just densely inhabited ones. “In states where there would not be the political will to pass a bill that impacts the entire state, this is an excellent measure to reduce the wood smoke that has the most impact on the most people,” said John Ackerly, President of the Alliance for Green Heat.

This commonsense approach may only apply to a minority of households and would not impact those households which are most likely to heat with stoves. “Ultimately, we need to see a quicker phase out of all old, uncertified stoves and this is an excellent step in that direction,” Mr. Ackerly said.

Exceptions will be made for those demonstrating financial hardship. If a person's household income is less than 250% of the federal poverty level, he or she may continue to operate an uncertified wood stove regardless of proximity to the lot line or neighboring home.

The Alliance for Green Heat supports this bill and urges legislators to pass it.


  1. I'm confused. Under the terms of this bill, a homeowner in a rural area (meeting the minimum setback requirements) may acquire a permit to install a non-EPA-Compliant wood stove. However, non-compliant stoves have been illegal to manufacture since 1988. It seems obvious that EPA intended to end "new" installations of non-compliant stoves by banning their manufacture. It seems ludicrous to sanction the "new" installation of one of these old, polluting stoves, yet this bill does just that, literally in the letter of the law. A non-compliant stove in a rural area will contribute to regional particle pollution even if it doesn't "bother the neighbors." The homeowner would be getting a "black market" stove - an old stove from the retailer's "back room", a re-used stove, or a home-made stove. This makes no sense to me. If all stove installations must receive a permit, regardless of location or setbacks, then ALL permits should require an EPA-certified stove... especially since that's the only thing you should be able to buy anyway. Does anyone know the Rhode Island legislature's thinking on this?

    1. It is confusing, but here is what I think legislators are thinking. First, lots of uncertified stoves continue to be made and sold in the US. The EPA left some big loopholes which will only be closed in a few years. If you type "cheap stove" in google, all the new stoves you see that are under $700 are likely to be uncertified - and perfectly legal to install most anywhere other than Washington, Oregon and parts of California. Plus, its still legal everywhere - other than those same states - to install a second hand, uncertified stove made before 1988. These bills are often pretty hard to pass so we think its a great step forward if we can just get them in densely populated areas, where most of the population lives.

      John Ackerly