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Hearth & Home December 2015

The EPA: Cleaning Our Air

By Bill Sendelback

Results of Clean Air Act enforcement agreements are cleaner air and fewer pre-EPA stoves in the field.

Actions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the last five years have made available almost $18 million for wood stove change-outs; that’s a result of federal Clean Air Act enforcement settlement agreements between the EPA and various industries. These most recent voluntary settlement agreements of violations of environmental regulations include areas in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Wisconsin, with funding amounts for wood stove change-outs ranging from $10,000 to $3.2 million. 

Almost half of the $18 million has been spent on completed or ongoing change-outs, according to the EPA.

“A change-out program can yield big reductions in harmful fine particulate pollution,” according to Larry Brockman, residential wood smoke team leader in the EPA’s office of Air Quality Planning and Standards. “For example, we estimate that the change-outs under the 2013 Wisconsin Power Service (WPS) project will reduce roughly 42 tons of PM2 a year.”  

According to the EPA, the $2 million WPS wood stove change-out program settlement agreement was implemented from May, 2014 to June, 2015, in 18 counties located in and around Green Bay and Wausau, Wisconsin. A total of 538 old technology wood-burning appliances were upgraded to cleaner-burning appliances, including EPA-certified wood stoves, gas and pellet stoves and EPA Phase 2 qualified outdoor hydronic heaters, the EPA reports. The WPS contracted with the American Lung Association to administer the project.

In another recent settlement agreement with Southern California Edison for its Four Corners power plant covering parts of Arizona and New Mexico, the EPA predicts the $3.2 million to be spent on change-out programs will improve indoor air quality in 750 Navajo homes.  

Wood stove change-out programs occasionally have been included in supplemental environmental projects (SEPs) or as mitigation projects, says the EPA. A SEP is an environmentally beneficial project or activity that is not required by law as part of a settlement agreement but that a defendant may agree to undertake as part of the settlement of an enforcement action.  

The EPA cannot compel a defendant to perform a SEP as part of that agreement, but for performance of a SEP, a defendant usually receives some reduction in a penalty.

According to the EPA, the primary purpose of its SEP policy is to encourage and obtain environmental and public health protection and benefits that may not otherwise have occurred in the settlement of an enforcement action. SEPs are developed, funded and implemented by the defendants, and implementation of a wood stove change-out SEP is the sole responsibility of the defendant. The defendant may choose to hire a contractor, consultant, other third party such as a non-profit like the American Lung Association (ALA) or a state organization to assist in development and completion of the SEP.   

In most cases when wood stove change-out programs are part of a settlement agreement, the local chapter of the ALA is selected by the defendant to administer the program. Since the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) is a trade organization, it is not a candidate to administer these programs, according to John Crouch, the HPBA’s director of Public Affairs. However, in most cases the local HPBA affiliate takes the lead to assist and consult with the local ALA on change-out programs.  

“The HPBA normally knows little about these change-out programs until the settlement agreement is signed,” says Crouch. He also points out that it often takes one to two years for a change-out program to be implemented after the settlement agreement has been signed.

“Most people don’t realize just how much money the EPA has brought to the table for wood stove change-out programs,” says Crouch.

Wood Burning Appliance Mitigation & Supplemental Environmental Project List
The following list includes examples of federal wood burning appliance settlement agreement incentive projects that have been or are currently being implemented throughout the U.S. since 2010.
Date Location Company Type of Project Funding
2010 Eastern AZ Salt River Project Wood stove $750,00
2010 Western MA Interprint Wood stove $305,000
2010 Southern IN Hoosier Energy Wood stove and hydronic heaters $1.9M
2011 Butte County, CA PowerTrain Wood stove $500,000
2011 Southern NH G&K Services Wood stove $220,000
2011 Southern NH Locin Wood stove $10,000
2011 Northern IN Northern Indiana Public Service Co. Wood stove and hydronic heaters $500,000
2012 Fairbanks, AK Golden Valley Electric Assoc. Wood and coal stoves, hydronic heaters $250,000
2012 Southern NH Nashua Corp. Wood stove $89,000
2013 Carson City and Douglas County, NV Edge Wood stove $156,000
2013 Greater Green Bay
and Wausau Area
Wisconsin Power Service Wood stove and hydronic heaters $2M*
2013 Christian County, IL and Lake County, IN surrounding area Dominion Power Wood stove, fireplaces, and hydronic heaters $525,000
2013 Providence, RI & MA area & counties in CT and RI Dominion Power Wood stove and hydronic heaters $2.1M
2014 Several Counties in Minnesota Power Minnesota Power Wood stove, fireplaces and hydronic heaters $800,000
2014 Several Counties in MI Consumer Energy Wood stove, fireplaces and hydronic heaters $1-2M**
2015 Denver, CO area Noble Energy Wood stove, fireplaces and hydronic heaters $1M
2015 Shiprock, NM area (Navajo Nation) Arizona Public Service Coal stoves, wood stove, fireplaces $3.2M
2015 Iowa: Interstate Power and Light's service territories in Linn County and within extended service territories Interstate Power and Light Wood stove, fireplaces and hydronic heaters $1.5M***
      Total $17,905,000

*The company can spend the amount indicated or less if they choose to fund another approved project.
**The company can spend no less than $1M and up to $2M.
***The company may propose to spend up to $1.5M.

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