ALBANY - Seven states filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against the Environmental Protection Agency over health-damaging air pollution from outdoor wood-fired boilers that have become popular for residential heating.
The lawsuit asks a federal court to order the EPA to review and adopt updated emissions limits for the boilers, which have been banned in some states and are strictly regulated in others. The coalition includes New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the EPA's existing emissions limits haven't been updated in 25 years and cover wood stoves but not wood boilers. Schneiderman cited EPA data saying emissions from wood-burning devices account for 13 percent of all soot pollution in the nation.
An outdoor wood boiler is seen with its chimney and wood pile in Saranac Lake in 2008, before the village created regulations for them them.
(Enterprise photo — Emily Hunkler)
Soot is linked to public health problems, including asthma, heart attacks and premature death.
An EPA spokeswoman said Wednesday that the agency is reviewing the lawsuit.
New York state adopted regulations in April 2011 to require all new wood-fired boilers sold in the state to burn at least 90 percent cleaner than older models. A plan to extend the rules to existing boilers was shelved after a public outcry, particularly in rural areas of northern New York where numerous farms and homes that rely on the heaters would be forced to pay thousands of dollars to replace them.
An outdoor wood-fired boiler, which resembles an outhouse with a chimney, heats water that's piped to the home's radiator system. While the devices are exempt from EPA emissions regulations, some states and municipalities have banned them because of air pollution concerns. Others have used subsidies to get people to switch to newer, cleaner-burning boilers.
In court papers, the coalition of states said national standards are needed to level the playing field so less-polluting wood heaters become more widely available in all states.
The lawsuit seeks updated standards for indoor wood stoves as well as the inclusion of other categories of wood heaters, including both indoor and outdoor wood boilers.