Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

EPA wood stove regs

The 2020 wood furnace standards make sense. Let them take effect as planned.

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Efforts to undo the environmental and public health protections of the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency could harm more than the air we breathe. They could undercut the remarkable achievement of Tower-based Lamppa Manufacturing, which has produced the world’s cleanest-burning wood furnace.

The company, which was the first to meet the EPA’s 2020 emissions standard, is in the process of an expansion that could eventually turn the company into a major player, and employer, in this multi-million dollar industry. It’s a good news story of how a small, family-owned business accepted a tough new regulation as a challenge, and not only met the challenge, but made it look easy.

The 2020 emissions standard, adopted by the EPA under the Obama years, was, like most regulations, intended to push industry players to improve their product in ways where the market generally falls short. In the case of wood furnaces, too many of them emit far more soot, carbon monoxide, and fine particulates than they should. In communities where such furnaces are widely used, they have fouled the air to the detriment of public health.

This was an example of how the market fails when it comes to regulation of what is known as “the commons,” by which we mean resources, like air and water, that we all share. A typical user of a wood furnace might be tempted to purchase the cheaper (and dirtier) model because it saves them money personally, while they can pass on the costs (in higher emissions) to the commons, in this case the local atmosphere. While wood furnaces represent a relatively small percentage of the heating appliances used by U.S. homeowners, they contribute as much as 30 percent of the fine particulates in the air in many communities.

Most wood furnace manufacturers in the U.S. were perfectly content with that arrangement and made little effort over the years to clean up their act. Lamppa Manufacturing, which has been committed to the development of clean wood-burning devices for decades, has been a remarkable exception and they have proven that wood-burning can be both remarkably clean and highly efficient.

The EPA, under President Obama, took steps to finally require wood furnace manufacturers to reduce their emissions, first with new standards that took effect last year and, finally, with a much stricter standard that takes effect in 2020.

Lamppa Manufactur-ing’s Vapor-Fire wood furnace is the first to meet the 2020 standard. And it didn’t just meet the test— it beat the new standard by 40 percent.

Even so, lobbyists for the big wood furnace manufacturers are at work in Washington, D.C., asking for a three-year delay in implementation of the 2020 standard. They claim that the new standard is so difficult to meet that it will take them more time to make the necessary improvements to their product line.

They are right that the new standard is tough, which is why it will make a big difference for air quality in communities where wood-burning is common. Yet these companies have known for decades that they would need to improve their products, and they did little or nothing. And now, with a deadline looming that could shut down their operations, they’re asking for the right to continue to sell their inferior products at the expense of air quality and human health.

The EPA should say no.

We’ve seen this routine too many times before. First, the industry pushes for delay in implementation of a new standard. Then, rather than using the ensuing years to meet the standard, they use the time to lobby for its eventual elimination.

The 2020 wood furnace standard is an example of smart regulation that makes a real difference by challenging an industry to clean up its act. And as Lamppa Manufacturing has demonstrated, it’s an achievable standard for a company that’s committed to protection of the environment.

The standard encourages the production of better wood furnaces, and rewards those companies that have made the investments to bolster their competitive edge. Isn’t that what American free enterprise is supposed to be all about?

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