The Alliance for Green Heat (AGH) has done an initial review of almost all of the comments on the new NSPS filed by manufacturers, states, air districts, non-profit organizations and politicians. We read more than 100 comments and selected a few of the important topics to summarize. There are many more topics we did not address. Some key manufacturer comments still have not been posted because some manufacturers sent their comments as “confidential business information” (CBI). At the bottom, we recommend a list of the comments we think are most representative, thoughtful, concise and important to read.
We highlight some of the trends, areas of agreement and areas of disagreement that appeared in comments. We were heartened to see the wide variety of organizations and companies that put a lot of time and effort into participating in this debate and we found scores of very thoughtful and innovative comments. The EPA will be reviewing and deciding on all these matters this year, and will finalized the rule by February 3, 2015.
Note: the positions included here are from agencies, groups or companies who gave a specific number or position If a group only opposed a standard or said it should be stricter, we usually did not record it in this initial analysis. Some positions may be more nuanced than described as this strives to be a succinct summary, not a full analysis. If you see any errors or misrepresentations, please let us know.
Areas of broad agreement
Virtually everyone, from industry to air quality agencies, supported the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) undertaking this New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) and regulating a broader range of appliances including boilers, furnaces, pellet stoves, single burn rate stoves and masonry heaters. A few made very good arguments to include fireplaces (American Lung Association & Innovative Hearth Products, IHP).
There is also a broad agreement on switching from crib to cordwood testing, but lots of disagreement over how, why and when. Notably, a couple of big stakeholders, NESCAUM and NYSERDA, urged the EPA to continue using cordwood for Step 2 emission testing. The Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA) argued that cordwood should only be used on a voluntary basis, under an alternative certification scheme. Under this proposed scheme, stoves would have to meet a 7.5-gram an hour standard to be certified using cordwood.
Few stakeholders argued for an 8 year, 3 Step process. HPBA and many companies do not support any Step 2 or Step 3, which makes the debate over 5 or 8 years irrelevant. Most states, air agencies and non-profits urged 5 years but at least 7 of them argued for a 3 year transition to a final Step 2. The largest stove manufacturer, Hearth & Home Technologies said 5; Travis said 8.
Step 1 Emission Standards
There is also a lot of agreement with Step 1 emissions standards for both stoves and boilers. Industry is nearly unanimous in agreeing to 4.5 for cat, non-cat and pellet stoves, .32 pounds per MMBTU for boilers and .93 for furnaces. However, some non-industry stakeholders are pushing for stricter Step 1 standards. At least 9 states and institutions are calling for Step 1 wood stove standards between 2.5 and 3.5 grams per hour. States include Massachusetts, New York and Maryland and groups include Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), American Lung Association (ALA), and the Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA).
Most stakeholders agreed with the EPA that catalytic and non-catalytic stoves should be held to the same emission standards but several, including Western States Air Resources (WESTAR) and Massachusetts say that catalytic stoves should be held to a stricter standard than non-catalytic stoves. Three California air districts suggest a limit of 4.1 instead of 4.5. Some stakeholders do not get into the debate about catalyst degradation, but simply do not agree with setting a higher emission limit in this NSPS compared to the last one. Others believed that every technology should be held to a standard that reflects the emission reduction capabilities that have developed over the years.
At least 1 state (Oregon), 2 air quality districts (Sacramento and Sonoma), 3 non-profits (ALA, AGH and CESA) and 1 company (New England Wood Pellet) urged a 2.5 Step 1 standard for pellet stoves.
There is wide agreement that .32 pounds per MMBTU was a good Step 1 standard for boilers though real disagreement between industry and others whether there should be a 7.5 gram an hour cap or a 18 gram an hour cap on each burn rate, the latter of which was part of the voluntary outdoor wood boiler program. At least 4 non-industry stakeholders urged a Step 1 furnace standard between .32 and .48 pounds per MMBTU, including AGH, ALA, NESCAUM and Washington Department of Ecology.
Step 2 Emission Standards
This is where things get much more complicated, and few stakeholders outside of industry specified what Step 2 should be for stoves. Industry closed ranks around 4.5 for both Step 1 and Step 2, arguing that BSER can’t be adequately demonstrated below 4.5 because there is too much variability and imprecision in the test method. Two respected, though small industry actors, Dectra and Rising Stone, said 2.5 and 2.0 were reasonable Step 2 stove standards.
HPBA developed an interesting but potentially risky legal argument that seeks to prevent EPA from implementing Steps 2 or 3, but still transition to cordwood. They say "EPA must revisit and withdraw its proposed Step 2 and 3 limits, and in their place adopt an "off-ramp" scheme under the statute’s “innovative technology waiver provision that will build a needed bridge to a new paradigm—standards based on testing with cordwood."
For boilers, industry appeared less unified than on stoves, and there was some coalescing around a Step 2 limit by some non-HPBA industry members. For example, BTEC said 0.15, Dectra said 0.1, Ecoheat Solutions said 0.19 or .06 and Rising Stone said 0.15. Tarm said 0.15 in 3 years. There was acknowledgement that if the Brookhaven Method were chosen, as many non-HPBA players would like, .06 would be too low because Brookhaven includes start up emissions.
One of the most hotly contested areas is sell-through, which would allow manufacturers and retailers to continue selling existing stock or even to make or import certain models for a specific time period. The EPA proposed 6 months for certified stoves and nothing whatsoever for exempt products including qualified boilers that participated in the voluntary EPA program. NESCAUM urged a year for certified stoves. For previously certified models, HPBA is asking for a sell-through period of unlimited duration.
AGH urged 2 years for qualified boilers and EN303-5 certified boilers and many importers of EN303-5 appliances appealed for either a longer sell-through for their equipment or acceptance of EN303-5 as one of allowed test methods. HPBA provided extensive detail about sell-through recommendations for each appliance class, and argued for sell-through for unqualified outdoor wood boilers. Many outdoor boiler companies argue for a one-year sell-through for unqualified boilers and longer extensions for qualified ones. Many, if not most, states and non-profits specifically urged that exempt stoves and exempt, unqualified outdoor boilers not be allowed to sell those devices after promulgation.
US Stove included some of the most specific proposals and justifications for a variety of appliances, from 2 years for pellet stoves, 4 years for single-burn stoves and up to 5 years for furnaces.
Few non-industry stakeholders supported any sell-through for exempt pellet stoves. Many pellet stoves are being tested for certification this year, to avoid the possibility that they will not be included in any sell-through provision. In a newsletter, the HPBA criticized the “minuscule six-month sell-through provision for pellet stoves.” Others asserted that pellet stoves makers have had years of notice that their products would be certified in this NSPS, and if any product would not need a sell-through, this may be it.
Acceptance of the PFI Pellet Standard
Acceptance of the Pellet Fuels Institute (PFI) standards was also a hotly contested area, with many inside and outside of the pellet industry taking positions on both sides. While some pellet producers may not favor any standards, most agree that they are necessary but differ as to whether the PFI standards should be recognized by the EPA. Many support thePFI standard, many want federal standards, many want the European ENplus standard and many want PFI to more closely resemble ENplus. Much of the support for ENplus comes from the Northeast and includes NESCAUM, Massachusetts and to a lesser extent NYSERDA. HPBA did not comment on the issue.
Test methods are another hotly debated arena with widespread industry opposition to many of the changes EPA is proposing. There are many detailed and technical issues involved, so we did not try to cover it in this brief, initial analysis. Most of the EPA accredited test labs filed comments with very different emphasis, and then they filed a comment jointly as the EPA Accredited Wood Burning Appliance Emission Testing Laboratory Coalition where they appear to join with HPBA and its members in primarily supporting the status quo, with some exceptions.
Best System of Emission Reduction (BSER)
There appears to be wide disagreement over BSER as a legal standard. HPBA maintains that Steps 2/3 of the NSPS fail to reflect BSER for several reasons, and must be abandoned because within the range of uncertainty of test methods are "arbitrary and capricious."
HPBA and industry repeatedly refer to the need of building up larger emission databases and EPA may focus on establishing BSER with a far smaller number of units. Industry seems to have omitted a BSER analysis for pellet stoves. If cat, non-cat and pellet stoves are in the same section, BSER may not apply to each technology separately. In what could be a significant policy shift, the non-catalytic stove caucus, who lawyers submitted comments under the "Wood Heater Coalition"did not ask for a specific stricter emission standard for cat stoves, but did ask that they have their own section, which could trigger a separate BSER analysis for cat stoves.
We are not aware of any industry stakeholder urging a stricter standard for pellet stoves even though BSER is clearly way below 4.5 and the accuracy and replicability of the test are not in dispute like it is with wood stoves.
Many states and air quality agencies say or infer that they will accept something far less than BSER for Step 1 as long as its applied to Step 2 in order to give manufacturers time to retool.
Some stakeholders accused the EPA of using pellet boiler numbers to arrive at a Step 2 level of .06 MMBTU that they would then apply to wood boilers. Many argued that no wood stove has achieved 1.3 using cordwood and the high and low burn rate calculation instead of the weighted average. Woodstock Soapstone however has tested in an EPA lab with cordwood and without weighting the burn rates and that data is in the EPA record. This appears to occur in other places where industry seems sure that EPA does not have data that it may actually have, or will have prior to promulgation.
The legal concept of "adequately demonstrated" will also be hotly contested. HPBA has taken the position that even if a stove or stoves have been tested using the ASTIM cordwood test method, they "undoubtedly constitute innovative technology that has not yet been adequately demonstrated."
Change-outs vs. Stricter Emission Standards
A key talking point among HPBA members is that the NSPS will slow down change-outs because they will raise the price of new stoves and lead to more homes keeping their old uncertified stoves. HPBA developed a legal argument around this, saying that "EPA cannot show that its proposal is the best “system” of emission reduction, because it will slow change outs of the six million uncontrolled woodstoves still in American homes—an environmental consequence of its proposal that it has also failed to take into account."
States, air agencies and non-profits also voiced support for change-out programs but hardly any stakeholder in or out of industry thought realistically and specifically about how such a massive change-out program would happen and who would fund it. Notably, of all the politicians mobilized by industry to express their concern to EPA, none expressed interest in looking for funds to pay for it. And, the predominantly Republican elected officials opposing the NSPS are the least likely ones to support public funding in a "Cash for Clunker" type bill. So, while virtually all stakeholders agree that change outs remain a great idea, no one has adequately demonstrated that such an effort is politically feasible or likely.
Consumer Hang Tag
We expected the consumer hang tag issue not to be very controversial, despite the fact that EPA proposed to do away with it. However, HPBA and every HPBA manufacturer we encountered agreed with EPA that the hangtag should not be required. HPBA argued, “hangtags have been a minor headache for retailers because of their tendency to become separated from the appliance on the sales floor. ... Moreover, experience has shown that instead of assisting consumers in making informed purchases, hangtags often confuse them. We also believe that EPA is correct in concluding that hangtags have become obsolete with the advent of the internet and its widespread use among consumers.” In another section of their comments, HPBA praised the success of the Energy Star program, which relies primarily on its hangtag to gain consumer recognition. Several non-HPBA manufacturers supported the hangtag, but most companies avoided the topic altogether, with the exception of Home & Hearth Technologies (HHT) who opposed it. (HHT is the largest manufacturer of stoves in North America and includes the Quadrafire, Harman, Heatilator and other brands.)
States were uniform and vocal about their support for continuing the use of a hangtag and improving the look and content of it. States that support it include Alaska, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon and Washington. Groups that support it include AGH, CESA, EDF, NYSERDA, WESTAR and 2 California air agencies.
Mandatory Efficiency Standard
The EPA request for comment on a mandatory efficiency standard did not attract a lot of attention, although some significant players urged the EPA to set an efficiency standard: EDF, Massachusetts, Minnesota and NESCAUM. Oregon urged the EPA to establish an aspirational standard and AGH urged the EPA to ensure that it’s included in the next NSPS. HPBA said that they “agree with EPA’s determination that the promulgation of efficiency or carbon monoxide standards would be inappropriate at this time” and that “there is neither any need for, nor data to support the establishment of such standards.”
Our recommendations of comments to read
If you don’t have time to wade through the more than 100 substantive comments on the NSPS, we have a few recommendations of comments that cover a range of topics in the NSPS instead of just one or two specialized areas.
- The longest, most detailed and legal is from HPBA at 170 some pages. Home & Hearth Technologies is a brief, concise comment that reflects key HPBA positions.
- Many state agencies were thoughtful and detailed. Minnesota is a good, well-rounded state comment and Massachusetts Clean Energy Center is a standout for consumer protection and advancing wood heat as a renewable energy solution.
- Among non-profits, we were most impressed with Environmental Defense Fund.
- For innovation, creativity and thinking about the future, ClearStak is a must read.
- For a manufacturer with thoughtful, independent-minded and concise comments, we recommend Dectra, a boiler maker. Rising Stone as another interesting independent minded industry voice.
- Other, more predictably thoughtful and substantive comments are from Washington, Oregon, NESCAUM, WESTAR, New York and NYSERDA and the ALA.
- The only state to speak up in opposition to much of the EPA’s proposal was Maine.
- To understand perspectives of manufacturers that serve lower and middle-income families, both England Stove Works and US Stove submitted substantive comments.
- Of course, we like our own comments and thank the law firm of Van Ness Feldman, who have a specialty in NSPS law, and who graciously represented us pro bono.
- Finally, we urge people to dip into the hundreds of passionate citizen comments that are an important counterpoint to the very legal, acronym filled comments of the primary industry, government and non-profit stakeholders. You can quickly scan a interesting list of comments by people who rely on wood heat here.