Albany Times Union: Dirtier boilers given reprieve

Existing stock of wood burning units can be sold until July, state says

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By BRIAN NEARING Staff writer

Published Saturday, April 16, 2011

ALBANY -- The state is giving businesses more time to sell off their inventory of outdoor wood boilers that don't meet new tougher pollution rules.

On Friday, the state Department of Environmental Conservation announced that dealers, which had faced a Thursday deadline to sell such boilers, now have until July 14 under an emergency rule.

DEC spokeswoman Lori Severino said the extra time was being given because new boilers cannot be installed until the ground thaws, and to "prevent additional cost burdens that may impact businesses.

Also, she said, local dealers cannot return unsold boilers to manufacturers and would have to bear the full loss for units that become unsalable.

A spokesman for the American Lung Association in New York, which had pushed for the stricter rules adopted in December, called the DEC decision to allow more polluting units to continue to be sold "troubling."

Michael Seilback, association vice president, said, "People have known about this deadline since December. What is the emergency? Do we really want to be sending more kids to the emergency room due to these toxic devices?"

DEC had initially proposed a phase-out for the most-polluting boilers, but that was dropped last year after opponents complained that boilers are important source of home heating in rural areas.

Some boiler models currently sold in New York meet new emissions requirements, while others do not. More than 14,500 boilers were installed across the state from 1999 to 2007 as more people turned to wood a low-cost way to heat their homes.

Just one of the dirtiest wood boilers can create the same emissions as 1,000 oil furnaces, according to DEC, and can send out thick clouds of drifting smoke that can worsen asthma and other breathing conditions. The DEC has gotten dozens of complaints from neighbors saying the smoke is a health issue and nuisance.

The new rules now require that boilers, depending on size, be installed at least 100 feet and as much as 1,000 feet from the nearest property boundary line. Boiler stacks also must be at least 18 feet above ground level.

Boilers also face limits on how much smoke can be emitted and DEC can issue tickets to boiler owners, regardless of when the boiler was installed.