Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Nine states urge the EPA to revoke the ASTM cordwood test method

A certification test using ASTM E3053
where logs are loaded north-south on
the bottom and east-west on top.  
The Attorney Generals of nine states sent a letter to Chet Wayland, the EPA’s Director of Air Quality Planning and Standards, urging him to reevaluate the ASTM E3053, and revoke it if the EPA reevaluation confirms the findings in a recent report from the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM).

The Attorney Generals said “certifications relying on [ASTM 3053] Alternative test methods 125 and 127 suffer from deficiencies that artificially lower emissions during the certification tests and allow too much variability and manufacturer or laboratory manipulation to provide a result sufficient to determine compliance with the Standard.” The letter is reproduced below and can be downloaded here.


The NESCAUM report that identified deficiencies in test reports that used ASTM E3053 also found significant deficiencies in test reports of stoves that used Method 5G, the official federal reference method for wood stove emission testing.  That report led to an announcement by the EPA in early April that they were overhauling their process of reviewing certification paperwork, but it did not address NESCAUM’s recommendation that the ASTM method be revoked.

Both the ASTM and IDC cord wood
test methods have been accepted as
"broadly applicable" which means any
manufacturer can use them for 
certification testing.  No stove has yet 
been certified with the IDC method.

At issue is what has become the favored test method by manufacturers and labs.  Eighty-five out of 148 cordwood stoves, nearly 60%, of all wood stoves on the market today used the ASTM test, one indication that the test may be easier than Method 28, the traditional test.  Among the close-knit community of stove manufacturers and test labs, there are few explanations of why labs shifted so quickly to use the ASTM test method.

This controversy, like virtually all others around wood stoves in recent years, have to do with heaters that burn wood, not pellets.  Unfortunately, reports, rejoinders and media coverage rarely make that distinction,  resulting in a loss of confidence in all types of heaters.  Pellet stoves remain fundamentally far cleaner than wood stoves in the hands of consumers and their test methods are far less susceptible to interpretation and manipulation.


On June 6, the EPA posted the NYSERDA IDC testing protocol. They say: "We have now docketed the TEOM SOP, and IDC Stove Operating and Fueling protocols, along with their associated spreadsheets (fueling calculator for IDC, data processing for TEOM). These files are static for the duration of our sample collection efforts that have now begun in Portland, OR."  This process too has been exclusionary.  The Alliance for Green Heat requested on multiple occasions to join the Roundtable group made up of scores of industry members, state regulators and EPA personnel, but the EPA declined to allow non-industry stakeholders to be part of this process. 

Industry experts affiliated with the main industry association, the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA), take pride in what they call an open, transparent and consensus-driven process of developing and approving the ASTM E3053 cordwood test method. Its detractors, led by NESCAUM and the New York State Energy and Development Authority (NYSERDA), say ASTM is a private non-profit that copyrights and sells its standards.  They also contend that even though anyone can join the committee developing an ASTM standard, the process can be dominated by industry, and comments and recommendations can be discarded if the core committee members do not agree with them.  


Lisa Rector explains the IDC test when
it was first publicly showcased at a
Wood Stove Design Challenge in 2018.
The Technical Contact for the ASTM E3053 development process and a subsequent revision which is still being worked on, is Robert Ferguson, a long-time industry insider who often is a consultant for HPBA.  Approximately 90% of the experts included in the ASTM 3053 development process consisted of representatives of wood stove manufacturers, HPBA staff and test lab staff.  In addition there were about 10 staff from EPA, NESCAUM, WESTAR and non-profits, including AGH.  HPBA paid for some of the testing during the development process and Mark Champion, who has done most of the Integrated Duty Cycle (IDC) testing also did testing of the ASTM method.  AGH offered comments during the ASTM process and was told that test data to back up suggestions was needed.  Comments from NESCAUM were reportedly disapproved.

NYSERDA has been funding NESCAUM to develop their own cordwood test method, which was recently approved by the EPA as a broadly applicable method, at the request of the State of Alaska.  Industry members say NESCAUM and NYSERDA have a clear conflict of interest and are trying to get rid of the competition so that their cordwood test method can be the only one used by test labs.  Industry is also frustrated with the lack of transparency surrounding the development of the IDC test method and the errors in it that would have been found if other experts could have reviewed it and tested it.  Tom Morrissey, owner of  Woodstock Soapstone found scores of errors in the NESCAUM report and identified many problematic issues with the IDC test method.  Ben Myren, a veteran test lab owner, also found many problems with the process run by NESCAUM and the state of Alaska.

An EPA reevaluation of finding
in the NESCAUM report
should include rejoinders
from manufacturers, such as
whether this fuel was correctly
flagged for debarking

It is not yet known whether the demands of the nine states could lead to the revocation of the certification of 85 stoves that were certified with the ASTM method, or whether the EPA would just not allow it to be used to certify additional stoves.  Most of those 85 stoves will be requesting to have their 5 year certification approval extended for another 5 years.  The EPA may require that those stoves go through emissions testing again after 5 years, an option that they appear to have been considering even before the letter from the Attorney Generals based on deficiencies flagged by the Alaska review process.

The nine Attorney Generals represent the states of New York, Alaska, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington  along with the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.  Absent from this list are Maine, New Hampshire and Connecticut who are members of NESCAUM and prominently listed at the beginning of the NESCAUM report.

Copy of letter:

Attorneys General of New York, Alaska, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency

May 21, 2021

Chet Wayland
Director, Air Quality Assessment Division
US EPA Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, 109 T.W. Alexander Drive, Mail Drop E-143-02 Research Triangle Park, NC 22710

Re: Request that EPA Revoke Use of Alternative Test Methods 125 and 127 for New Source Performance Standard Wood Heaters Certification

Dear Chet Wayland,

On behalf of the Attorneys General of New York, Alaska, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, we write to request that EPA revoke alternative test methods 125 and 127, both based on ASTM 3053, to certify compliance with the New Source Performance Standard (the Standard) for wood heaters. These alternative test methods threaten to undermine the air quality benefits of the Standard.

As outlined in an April 28, 2021 letter from multiple state regulators to EPA, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management have together undertaken a comprehensive review and audit of wood heaters certified under test methods relying on ASTM 3053. These entities found that certifications relying on those alternative test methods suffer from deficiencies that artificially lower emissions during the certification tests. Alternative test methods 125 and 127 allow too much variability and manufacturer or laboratory manipulation to provide a result sufficient to determine compliance with the Standard. In light of these findings, we request that EPA reevaluate the authorizations for alternative test methods 125 and 127, and if EPA corroborates the reports’ findings, revoke these alternative test methods. See 40 CFR §§ 60.8(b), 60.534(a)(1)(ii) (specifying authority to authorize alternative test methods); see also 40 CFR § 60.533(l)(1) (allowing revocation of certifications for wood heater models where test results cannot be replicated).

States continue to invest considerable resources to facilitate the exchange of older, more- polluting wood heaters for newer less-polluting units. Wood heater certifications based on deficient test methods, which produce artificially lower emissions than what can be achieved by homeowners, undermines these efforts. Furthermore, wood heaters with high particulate matter emissions pose dangers to the health of our residents, including vulnerable populations, such as children, the elderly, and environmental justice communities. EPA can mitigate these problems by requiring the use of either EPA’s method 28R or alternative test method 140 (the Integrated Duty Cycle Test Method that EPA has indicated represents the future of certification test methods for wood heaters).

Last year, numerous States submitted an amicus brief supporting EPA’s authority to conduct auditing of wood heater certifications. See States’ Amicus Brief, Hearth Patio & Barbecue Ass’n v. U.S. Envtl. Prot. Agency, No. 15-1056 (D.C. Cir. Sept. 21, 2020), ECF No. 1862523. In that amicus brief, we argued that manufacturers could effectively evade the Standard, and thus contribute to harmful air pollution, by using alternative test methods based on ASTM 3053 for test certifications and running tests more loosely than permitted by method 28R. For example, these methods do not require the use of fuel logs that are 5/6 the length of the firebox, and using shorter logs allows for cleaner burns. What is more, gaming the tests leads to results that cannot be replicated.

We now ask that EPA take the additional step of reviewing the reports and information brought forward by air regulators and other parties and to reassess using alternative test methods 125 and 127. If EPA findings corroborate the state air regulator’s reports—including that stoves certified under alternative test methods 125 and 127 do not reliably produce emissions below the Standard—then EPA should disallow the use of these methods. Moreover, when the certifications for wood heater models that used alternative test method 125 or 127 are up for renewal, EPA should require recertification testing using method 28R or alternative test method 140. See 40 CFR § 60.533(h)(2) (indicating certifications expire every five years).

Thank you for your attention to addressing this troubling threat to the air quality protections afforded by the Standard.



Attorney General of the State of New York

Assistant Attorneys General Environmental Protection Bureau The Capitol

Albany, NY 12224
Tel: (518) 776-2406 nicholas.buttino@ag.ny.gov


TREG R. TAYLOR Attorney General

By: /s/ Steve E. Mulder
Chief Assistant Attorney General 1031 West Fourth Avenue, Suite 200 Anchorage, AK 99501
Tel: (907) 269-5100
Fax: (907) 276-3697 steve.mulder@alaska.gov


Attorney General of Maryland

By: /s/ Michael Strande MICHAEL STRANDE Assistant Attorney General Department of the Environment 200 Saint Paul Place

Baltimore, MD 21202
Tel: (410) 576-6300 michael.strande@maryland.gov


Attorney General of Massachusetts

By: /s/ Carol Iancu
TURNER SMITH, Deputy Chief Assistant Attorneys General Office of the Attorney General Environmental Protection Division One Ashburton Place, 18th Floor Boston, MA 02108
Tel: (617) 963-2428 carol.iancu@state.ma.us


GURBIR S. GREWAL Attorney General

By: /s/ Lisa J. Morelli LISA J. MORELLI
Deputy Attorney General New Jersey Division of Law 25 Market Street

Trenton, NJ 08625
Tel: (609) 376-2745 Lisa.Morelli@law.njoag.gov


ELLEN F. ROSENBLUM Attorney General

By: /s/ Paul Garrahan
PAUL GARRAHAN Attorney-in-Charge
Special Assistant Attorney General Natural Resources Section

Oregon Department of Justice 1162 Court Street NE
Salem, OR 97301-4096
Tel: (503) 947-4593 Paul.Garrahan@doj.state.or.us Steve.Novick@doj.state.or.us


Attorney General of Rhode Island

By: /s/ Alison B. Hoffman
Special Assistant Attorney General
Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General 150 South Main Street
Providence, RI 02903
Tel: (401) 274-4400 ext. 2116 ahoffman@riag.ri.gov


THOMAS J. DONOVAN, JR. Attorney General

By: /s/ Nicholas F. Persampieri NICHOLAS F. PERSAMPIERI Assistant Attorney General Office of the Attorney General 109 State Street

Montpelier, VT 05609
Tel: (802) 828-6902 nick.persampieri@vermont.gov


ROBERT W. FERGUSON Attorney General

By: /s/ Caroline E. Cress CAROLINE E. CRESS Assistant Attorney General Office of the Attorney General P.O. Box 40117

Olympia, WA 98504-0117 Tel: (360) 586-4613 caroline.cress@atg.wa.gov


By: /s/ Jennifer A. Dold JENNIFER A. DOLD
General Counsel
Puget Sound Clean Air Agency 1904 Third Avenue, Suite 105 Seattle, WA 98101

Tel: (206) 689-4015


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Thursday, May 20, 2021

Stove manufacturer documents scores of errors in NESCAUM report

NESCAUM responds to Morrissey as he issues Part 2 of his review

Tom Morrissey, owner of Woodstock Soapstone, a wood stove manufacturer, has written a blistering critique of a report that claimed the EPA wood stove certification process is “dysfunctional.”  

Tom Morrissey at his factory 
in West Lebanon, NH
The review by this independent manufacturer further ratchets up a conflict that has engulfed a section of EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation.  The original report, “Assessment of EPA’s Residential Wood Heater Certification Program" by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM), issued in March 2021, was based on a review of all test lab certification documents that had been sent to EPA to certify stoves to EPA’s regulatory standards.  The review was conducted jointly by the Alaska Department of Conservation (ADEC) and NESCAUM, with funding from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). 

(June update: Tom Morrissey released part 2 of his review on June 15 and three days later, NESCAUM released their rebuttal to Morrissey's initial review.  NESCAUM appears to be standing behind its entire report and did not find any merit in Morrissey's critique.  On page 21, NESCAUM also addressed editorial comments in AGH's blog. Part 2 of Morrissey's critique mainly focuses on burn rate requirements adopted by ADEC as a deficiency, but not used by NYSERDA's IDC test method.  Morrissey also describes why the IDC will likely result in lower efficiencies because BTUs in the tail of the burn are not included and questions if the EPA should ever approve a test method where underlying calculations are not public.  AGH agrees with a substantial amount of the content in both the NESCAUM report and Morrissey's rejoinders and believe it's important for EPA officials, states and experts to consider both.)

NESCAUM and ADEC accused the EPA of running a dysfunctional certification program that “is easily manipulated by manufacturers and testing laboratories” and “EPA has done little to no oversight and enforcement.” Morrissey counters that NESCAUM and ADEC also have produced a dysfunctional assessment of the EPA program that is full of “error, bias and conflict of interest.”

We have excerpted key parts of Morrissey’s review below.  The full review, with scores of photos, can be downloaded here.  The Alliance for Green Heat believes it is important to consider both the NESCAUM report and rejoinders from Morrissey and another one from veteran lab technician Ben Myren together.  We believe there is substantial truth in all three of these documents.  Our initial response to the NESCAUM report was that it “overstated” its case, and AGH welcomes expert rejoinders that bring some balance to the conversation.  However, AGH still believes that EPA should take the NESCAUM report seriously because it is clear that the EPA certification and enforcement programs need significant improvement, and that these have been underfunded, understaffed and overlooked within the EPA.  

AGH also agrees that much of ADEC’s and NESCAUM’s review was hastily done without sufficient fact-checking.  The report carries an unfounded degree of authority that is now reverberating throughout the wood stove industry and its state and federal regulators, and the wider public is less likely to see these rejoinders.  NESCAUM and ADEC now have the opportunity to respond and explain some of the allegations in Morrissey's review or continue to stand behind that data that led to their conclusions. Numerous individuals have approached northeastern state government agencies who are members of NESCAUM, urging them to distance themselves from the report and not let their agency names be used on such reports in the future without more due diligence.

In early April, in response to the NESCAUM report, the EPA announced they were conducting an in-depth review of the certification process.  They placed most of the blame on the test labs and third party certifiers.  Morrissey’s review may cause the EPA to rethink its strategy and not put undue trust in the finding of the NESCAUM report.  Morrissey’s review is significant because he is not a member of the wood stove industry association and has often taken sides for and against industry interests – and the EPA’s. This is part 1 of his review and he expects to complete the second part in June.

AGH is concerned that the NESCAUM report, media coverage of it, and Morrissey and Myren’s rejoinder put so much focus on the inherent problems with wood stoves and the pollution they can cause, that the benefits of pellet stoves get overlooked.  Virtually nowhere is there recognition of the technology and reliability of pellet stoves and boilers as a far cleaner, renewable energy technology that can help households and businesses get off fossil heating fuel.  





Page 1: In March 2021, the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM) published a document entitled “Assessment of EPA’s Residential Wood Heater Program (“Assessment”). The “Assessment” is the result of a review conducted by NESCAUM “in collaboration with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation” (ADEC). 

The “Assessment” is intended to influence “policymakers” by claiming 1) that the EPA Certification Program is dysfunctional and a systemic failure, 2) that there are a significant number of discrepancies and omissions in test reports submitted to EPA for approval, 3) that EPA has failed to conduct compliance audits, and 4) that the NESCAUM and ADEC could do a better job than EPA in, a) deter- mining which stoves are in fact the cleanest burning and, b) developing a test method for certifying wood burning appliances. NESCAUM has provided scant data to back up these major claims, and some of the data that it does present is riddled with discrepancies, omissions, bias errors, and conflict of interest, as detailed below. Bias is evident everywhere; in tone and use of language, in lack of transparency, in the selection of subjective criteria to attempt to discredit test methods and results, and in its attempt to advance NESCAUM’s own agenda4 with its “policy recommendations.” The bias is so pervasive that it undermines much of the “Assessment.” 

Page 3: In order to assess NESCAUM/ADEC’s data analysis and conclusions, we need to first look care- fully at its data collection methods and ask whether the underlying data is complete, credible, and unbiased. The main focus of this Part One of A Review of the “Assessment” is on how data was collected and tallied on “Summary Review Sheets” by ADEC. 

On the following pages I raise concerns about quality control, bias, and conflict of interest in NESCAUM/ADEC’s acquisition of data. It is clear that NESCAUM/ADEC reviewers lacked objectivity in assessing information, particularly with regards to the ASTM E-3053 method, and they reviewed individual test reports (knowingly or not) with the intent to discredit the ASTM E-3053 and advance their own interest in promoting the IDCTM method. 

Page 4: All ADEC data sheets that I have reviewed are undated and unsigned. Most have few, if any comments.  Many have unfilled spreadsheet boxes (data not collected). All of the ADEC reports of stoves made by Woodstock Soapstone Company have serious omissions, errors of fact, misreporting, and untrue statements. Of six Woodstock Soapstone Company models approved to the EPA 2020 Standards, two models were missing entirely, and one model was reviewed twice, on separate data sheets that were inconsistent and did not match (i.e., different reviewers looking at the same data, or the same reviewer on different dates looking at the same data). The fact that ADEC reviewed the same data twice, and the two completed spreadsheets are markedly different, speaks to the concern (also noted in footnote #2) about quality control. 

Page 5: On the pair of summary sheets where NESCAUM/ADEC inadvertently reviewed the same test report twice, there were 25 discrepancies between the two reports, including errors of transcription, op- posing claims that data was or was not reported, rounding errors, conflicting or inconsistent “flags” and numeric/arithmetic errors. This is not reassuring in terms of NESCAUM’s claimed consistency in generating the summary results, and raises the issue of whether NESCAUM’s own consistency and repeatability should be the subject of an audit. 

These two ADEC Summary Reports are reproduced on page 6, and an explanation of most of the errors on page 7. For simplicity sake, I refer to the report that is captioned Model 210a (but really Model 210) as Report A, and the Report that was (correctly) reviewing Model 210 as Report B. Both reports were posted and properly labeled on the Woodstock Soapstone website. But that’s not the point; these two reviews of the same report should produce similar, if not identical results, but they did not. 

These two Summary Sheets, which review the same test report,8 disclose obvious problems in the research and reporting methods employed by NESCAUM/ADEC, and the ability/willingness of NESCAUM/ADEC to impose meaningful quality controls on their inquiry. As noted early in this review (see footnote 2), there is little, if any, evidence of NESCAUM/ADEC cross-checking or vetting of the reviews or data in the “Assessment”. The task of auditing the “Assessment” and validating its so-called “data” and its various claims will now, probably, fall squarely on EPA. 

This is the central irony of this situation; NESCAUM’s own data and reporting is guilty of the same failures it attributes to EPA, namely failures in transparency, documentation, and auditing its own work product for consistency, impartiality, and accurateness. The EPA will now become responsible for cleaning up the NESCAUM mess. 

Page 8:  For the purpose of this initial review, I will focus mainly on stoves made by Woodstock Soap- stone Company. Next, I will examine the ADEC Summary Sheet for our Model 202/204. This is a “plain vanilla” Summary Sheet, compared to Model 210, on pages 6 and 7, above. 

ADEC encourages manufacturers to “review their certification test report summaries and submit corrections, and that any substantiated errors or corrections will be applied to the summary sheet.” So, I’ll just make the corrections here. On our Model 202/204, the initial ADEC summary sheet (see next page, LEFT COLUMN) makes the following errors (WHICH CUMULATIVELY TOTAL 13 FLAGS). I intend to address THREE ADDITIONAL RED FLAGS (related to Documentation of 1) run appropriateness, 2) run Validity, and 3) run anomalies on Part 2 of this Review. 

What is fascinating is that between early April 2021, when I downloaded the original Summary Review Sheet, and today (mid-May, 2021), ADEC performed an additional review and corrected some of its original errors, and made some new errors. Here are comments on the initial ADEC Summary Sheet. Comments on the revised Summary Sheet are on the next page. 

Page 10: According to the ADEC “PROCESS”, I am supposed to address all of these “issues” by

One of the many photos that
appear to provide evidence
contradicting ADEC "flags"

discussing them with ADEC, and maybe submitting modified or reformed test reports. Then ADEC will makes changes as it deems appropriate. Or not. 

Page 14: The “Assessment” claims that “90% of the stoves tested using ASTM E-3053 used debarked wood or failed to provide information about whether there was bark on the fuel.” (Assessment page 38) The “Assessment further claims that “61% of the stoves tested with ASTM E-3053 used squared wood for more than 50% of the pieces” (Assessment page 33), including the stove immediately above (Model 205) and the fuel for Model 202/204, pictured on pp 10-11. 

Based on my review, I cannot believe either of these claims. If the basic data underlying the “Assessment” is defective, then its claims of numerous deficiencies in testing and reporting, and its criticisms of ASTM E-3053 are suspect, because they are based on bad data. 

Page 19: I hope to have Part 2 in mid-June. There is a lot more to unpack in the “Assessment,” including: 

* The overall “Assessment” review strategy, and whether it is a credible basis for proceeding to the conclusions that the “Assessment” tries to come to. This strategy is basically to make a list of each and every requirement imposed by the NSPS, and then see if each and every item on the list can be identified in test reports, no matter how obscure or irrelevant the requirement might be. Otherwise, deficiencies are claimed by NESCAUM/ADEC without any apparent oversight or review, or any basis in fact. 

* The nexus of firebox size and calculation, loading direction, fuel length, and loading density. These are the second set of elements that the “Assessment” uses to criticize ASTM E-3053. 

* I’ll review this sentence, and how it has spawned innumerable “flags” (i.e., claims of violations of the NSPS) in the “Assessment’s flag-collection effort."