Adirondack Daily Enterprise: Stricter outdoor wood boiler regs approved

December 23, 2010 - By MIKE LYNCH, Enterprise Outdoors Writer 

The state Environmental Board approved tougher regulations for new outdoor wood boilers Wednesday at a special meeting in Albany.

"We considered public comment received and concluded that the proposed standards for new units are reasonable and should be finalized," Acting DEC Commissioner Peter Iwanowicz told fellow board members at the meeting, which the Enterprise watched via webcast. "Comments received in the public comment process were largely supportive of these standards. Second, putting these standards in place is a matter of protecting public health."

The regulations were originally scheduled to go before the Environmental Board in late October but were tabled. The regulations have been supported by environmental and health organizations but criticized by other groups, including the New York Farm Bureau and by speakers at a public hearing held this summer in Saranac Lake.

The new regulations will require that outdoor wood boilers sold in New York state have to meet stricter emissions standards.

They also include stack height requirements for new outdoor wood boilers that are intended to lessen the impact of emission plumes on neighboring property owners. A residential-size new outdoor wood boiler must now have a permanent stack extending a minimum of 18 feet above ground level. The DEC may also require that the permanent stack extend up to 2 feet above the peak of any roof structure within 150 feet of the unit.

New units will also be required to be set back a minimum of 100 feet from neighboring properties - except for those used in agricultural operations, which must be at least 100 feet from neighboring homes.

Both new and existing units will be subject to fuel restrictions that require users to use seasoned and clean wood as opposed to garbage and other debris.

"The new guidelines the state has set on outdoor wood boilers is a necessary step in improving the process of burning wood as a renewable energy resource and is not to stop people from burning clean wood," said village of Tupper Lake Mayor Mickey Desmarais in a prepared statement from DEC. "Trying to make our air cleaner and protect our residents is our responsibility and the village supports establishing guidelines and standards on OWBs to make this happen."

The move was criticized by New York Farm Bureau President Dean Norton in a prepared statement.

"Like the Grinch who stole Christmas, the DEC today has stepped way outside reasonable government protocol by bypassing public comment on a new set of regulations that will affect thousands of rural New Yorkers who heat their homes with wood boilers," Norton said. "DEC promised to hold a public comment period for the regulations they passed today. They didn't. This is the government that has plagued Albany that we hope will change with the new administration.

He said the "Farm Bureau will continue to fight DEC as they work to pass the second phase of these regulations which affect existing wood boilers."

Iwanowicz said that because of public comment, the DEC had decided not to finalize restrictions on existing outdoor wood boilers at this time. Instead the DEC will hold additional hearings early in 2011 as it considers new rules for them.

Assembly Republican leader Brian M. Kolb also sent a letter to Iwanowicz on Dec. 17 asking that the regulations not be approved at this time.

"With a new year, a new governor and a new legislative session - during which the DEC's budget will be subject to legislative oversight and approval - almost upon us, I urge you to reverse this last-minute attempt to promulgate a new regulation that would have negative consequences for rural New York and our entire agricultural community," Kolb wrote.

The regulations were supported by the American Lung Association in New York in a prepared statement by its president, Scott T. Santarella.

"Outdoor wood boilers emit toxic smoke that negatively impacts air quality and lung health," Santarella said. "Their emissions contain unhealthy amounts of particulate matter and components such as carbon monoxide, various irritant gases, and chemicals known or suspected to be carcinogens, such as dioxin."