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Senator Seward denounces quick vote on outdoor wood boiler regulations

Dec 21, 2010 1:03 am
[caption id="" align="alignright" width="55" caption="New York State Senator James Seward."][/caption]On Sunday, the New York State Environmental Board announced a Board meeting Wednesday to vote on regulations for outdoor wood boilers, mostly for new models, but a few that impact older stoves. On a few days notice, the vote would be just before Christmas. Do you think they wanted to get something passed without attracting much notice? State Senator James Seward (who represents Greene County) does, and sent out a press release denouncing the process. "I must also express my profound disappointment with the lack of transparency and public input surrounding the new proposed regulations," Seward wrote Monday in a letter to NYS DEC Acting Commissioner Peter Iwanowicz. "To highlight the secretiveness of the process, as of December 20, just two days before the planned vote, the new revised regulations were not even posted on the DEC website." Further, Seward says the board is not thoroughly reviewing this matter. "It is my understanding that, during the October meeting of the Environmental Review Board, DEC promised to hold a new public comment period before a set of revised regulations would be enacted. DEC failed to follow through on this promise," Seward writes. "Instead, they have chosen to push the new regulations through without giving both legislators and the public the opportunity to review the proposal and provide comment." What are those new regulations? A summary of the regulations was posted by Monday afternoon. Read on.

The Watershed Post does the best job of breaking down the proposal:
One provision of the proposed OWB regs that applies to existing OWBs is a list of what can and cannot be burned in an outdoor wood boiler. The rules would outlaw anything except "clean wood" as an OWB's main fuel, and specifically prohibit the burning of garbage, yard waste, and animal carcasses:
Seasoned clean wood may be burned in a OWB. 'Clean wood' is defined in section 247.2 as wood that has not been painted, stained, or treated with a coating, glue or preservative. In addition, natural gas and heating oil that meets the sulfur content limits set forth in Subpart 225-1, and non-glossy, non-colored papers, including newspaper, may be used as starter fuels. The Department may approve additional fuels for specific models of new OWBs provided that the models have been tested via United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Test Method 28-OWHH with the fuels in question. A list of prohibited fuels is contained in subdivision 247.3(b). The list of prohibited fuels includes, but is not limited to, garbage, yard waste, household chemicals and animal carcasses.

Another provision of the proposed regs that affects existing wood boilers is a prohibition on "the operation of any OWB in such a manner as to cause or allow emissions from such OWB that are injurious to human, plant or animal life or which unreasonably interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property." The reg gives examples of this kind of use, specifically:
1. activating smoke detectors in neighboring structures;
2. impairing visibility on a public highway; or
3. causing a visible plume migrating from an OWB and contacting a building on an adjacent property.
There's a third provision of the proposed rules that applies to existing OWBs as well: they prohibit boilers from producing a "smoke plume with an opacity of 20 percent or greater (six minute mean) as determined via EPA Reference Method 9 (or equivalent)."

These proposed rules for existing OWBs aren't particularly controversial. Maybe the DEC is gambling that OWB fans won't be able to rally a bunch of supporters two days before Christmas to defend their right to burn garbage and puff smoke onto their neighbors' buildings. But OWB supporters have surprised the DEC before, and the department isn't doing itself any favors by appearing to renege on a promise to get more public comment before making rules about existing OWBs.

The New York State Environmental Board will meet at 2 p.m., Dec. 22, 2010, in Room 129 at the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) main offices at 625 Broadway, Albany. According to their website, this meeting will be webcast soon after the conclusion of the meeting. To observe the meeting, go to www.dec.ny.gov/public/36245.html.