MONTPELIER — Vermont has joined seven other states in a federal lawsuit seeking to force the Environmental Protection Agency to review and revise emission standards for new residential wood-burning heaters.
The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to review and rewrite as needed the standards at least every eight years. Vermont and other states say the EPA has not done so on three occasions in the past 25 years, according to the suit filed in Washington.
“All we’re doing is asking EPA to basically do what they’re supposed to do under the Clean Air Act ...,” said Vermont Assistant Attorney General Scot Kline.
The states argue that wood-burning heaters have proliferated in that time frame. And technology has improved to better limit harmful emissions. But standards for wood heaters have not been updated.
The emissions can lead to health problems. Updated standards are needed to protect public health, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell said in a statement.
“Wood smoke contains pollutants that are linked to serious health effects, including cardiovascular and respiratory problems. EPA’s standards are outdated and do not even cover outdoor wood boilers,” Sorrell said. “Vermonters burn a significant amount of wood, and the federal standard should reflect technological advances that make wood burners more cost-effective and environmentally friendly.”
According to the EPA, fine particulate matter emitted from wood heaters made up 13 percent of all the particulate pollution in the U.S. in 2008. The agency estimated that outdoor wood boilers will produce more than 20 percent of emissions from wood burning by 2017.
The standards, according to the attorney general’s office, apply to new residential wood heaters. The lawsuit will not affect those already in use.
The states, led by New York, also include Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon and Rhode Island. Sorrell’s office said the Agency of Natural Resources is assisting in the case.
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