The Daily Star: State Supreme Court halts wood boiler sales

(May 26, 2011)

The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports
May 26, 2011

By Jake Palmateer
Staff Writer  

The state Supreme Court has ordered a temporary halt to the sale of outdoor wood boilers that don't meet new state standards.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation adopted wood boiler regulations Dec. 29, and they became effective Jan. 28.

The DEC then adopted an emergency rule April 15 that would delay the adoption of the new emissions standards until July, to give retailers a chance to dispose of current inventories of non-complying boilers.

But the American Lung Association, Earthjustice and Environmental Advocates of New York asked the court for the new standards to be put into effect immediately.

The temporary injunction will be in place until the court decides June 20 on a permanent halt.

The boilers, which resemble small sheds, burn wood to heat buildings and hot water.

The original regulations require boilers to burn at least 90 percent cleaner and have smokestacks that reach at least 18 feet off the ground.

Wood boilers must also meet minimum distances from neighboring properties, called setbacks. The regulations also limit the type of materials that can be burned to "clean," or untreated, wood.

The emergency rule as adopted by the DEC on April 15 extends the sell-through date by 90 days, allowing a distributor more time to dispose of non-complying boilers they had in stock.

The smokestack height and setback requirements remain in effect, according to the DEC.

Non-complying wood boilers endanger public heath and can exacerbate asthma symptoms, according to a media release from the three groups.

"The court agreed that we showed a strong likelihood that DEC's abrupt decision to allow the continued sale of dirty boilers was invalid. New Yorkers have the right to breathe clean air. After three years of consulting with stakeholders and the public to develop a rule limiting pollution from outdoor wood boilers, distributors had plenty of time to prepare for the new health-protective standards," Hanna Chang of Earthjustice said in the release.

Brad Vickers of the Chenango County Farm Bureau said not only are the original rules ill-conceived, but also an expedited implementation of the standards is a bad idea.

"It shows New York is not up with the real issues," Vickers said. "Certainly, the Farm Bureau is opposed to the whole process to begin with."

Vickers said the auto industry is given plenty of time to abide by new emissions standards.

"This is a whole different precedent that DEC is trying to set here," he said. "If you have a lot invested and they are sitting in the lot, now all of a sudden the state is going to make them illegal to sell -- that doesn't sound very business-friendly to me."

Vickers said there have actually been only a small number of complaints from the public about wood boilers.

Wood boilers are most often seen in rural areas, where operators may secure fuel from their own property.

The original regulations passed in December also require that existing boilers be removed or replaced within 10 years, and that boilers be equipped with 18-foot smokestacks in the interim.