By EVAN REID
IRON MOUNTAIN - Area residents connected with State Sen. Tom Casperson and other members of the Michigan Senate Natural Resources, Environment, and Great Lakes Committee Thursday to discuss regulations on wood-burning stoves proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Evan Reid/Daily News Photo
Dickinson County Commissioner Joe Stevens, second from right in front row, speaks with the Michigan Senate Natural Resources, Environment, and Great Lakes Committee from Bay College West in Iron Mountain. Area residents were able to participate in a meeting regarding proposed regulations on wood-burning stoves via video conference Thursday. Pictured in back row, from left, are Norway Mayor Jeremy Oja and John Dougoveto. In front row, from left, are Casperson District Representative Dale McNamee, Dickinson County Equalization Director Sid Bray, Dickinson County Commissioners Barb Kramer and Joe Stevens, and Dickinson County Controller Nicole Frost.
Residents met at Bay College West in Iron Mountain to participate in the committee meeting, held at the Farnum Building in Lansing, via video conference.
The meeting regarded Senate Bill 910, which aims to prohibit the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality from regulating wood-burning stoves and from enforcing any EPA regulation limiting emissions from wood-burning appliances.
In addition, Senate Resolution 127 and Senate Concurrent Resolution 14 call on the EPA to not adopt the proposed regulations.
In January, the EPA proposed revisions to the residential wood-burning stove new source performance standards (NSPS) under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act.
The new standards set forth by the EPA would impact new pellet, corn burner and outdoor wood boilers.
The National Federation of Independent Business, manufacturers of wood stoves and heating appliances, estimates that the proposed new emission requirements could virtually end the burning of wood for heat in the United States and more than double the cost of new wood-burning appliances.
"These proposed regulations are a recent example of overreach by bureaucrats, as we too often see, especially from the EPA," Casperson, said when the legislation was introduced. "Using wood as a heating source has been a way of life for centuries in the U.P. and across rural Michigan. The burdensome regulations proposed by the EPA are an overreach of government and need to be stopped to protect our way of life."
The proposal does not include any requirements associated with appliances that are already in use, and would not affect existing stoves.
The committee heard testimony in support and opposition of the proposed standards.
Representatives of wood-burning stove manufacturers and suppliers spoke to the committee, addressing the possibility of increased costs for companies and consumers as a result of the new source performance standards.
Companies would have to produce more expensive units to meet the proposed regulations, they said, predicting sales of wood stoves could decrease as much as 50 to 80 percent.
Industry representatives also compared the proposal to the Affordable Care Act, and argued that new federal regulation of wood-burning stoves is unnecessary, as local and state governments are able to deal with the issue on their own.
Casperson, R-Escanaba, agreed that the problem for companies wouldn't necessarily be meeting standards, but in the costs required of them to do so.
That cost would be passed down to residents of rural areas who rely on burning wood to heat their homes, due to inaccessibility of natural gas or the expenses of electric and propane heating systems, Casperson pointed out.
Policy Director of the Michigan Environmental Council James Cliff spoke against SB 910 and in favor of the EPA proposal.
Wood-burning stove manufacturers and suppliers were "crying wolf" and inflating claims of cost, Cliff said.
Cliff said companies would not only be able to meet the proposed standards in a cost-effective manner, but would ultimately produce cleaner, more efficient products.
Cliff said that wood is designated as a carbon neutral fuel source, and concern regarding emissions focuses on particulate matter produced by burning wood, which can pose public health risks.
Casperson repeatedly addressed the need for clarification regarding how EPA officials arrived at their proposal, and where the information gathered to support it came from.
"How did they get their information?" he asked. "The EPA is not talking to people on the ground."
Casperson also said the NSPS revisions would pose a problem for not only Michigan, but the entire Midwest region.
Other committee members expressed differing views on the issue.
Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, stated the overall economic effect of the proposed standards would be beneficial, due to money saved in treating fewer cases of asthma and other health issues.
"We must strike a balance between economic stability and the safety of our citizens," she said.
Warren also doubted that allowing state and local governments to set standards, resulting in a "patchwork of regulations," was the best option.
Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, wondered whether the EPA had provided manufacturers with designs or other assistance to meet the proposed standards.
Dickinson County Commissioner Joe Stevens spoke to the committee from Bay College, voicing his concern that stricter regulations would infringe on state and individual rights.
He voiced support for SB 910, citing what he saw as a lack of common sense in the EPA proposal.
"We live in the Upper Peninsula," Stevens said "We live in the woods, we burn wood."
The current NSPA regulations were approved in 1988.
Evan Reid's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.