Fairbanks — At the end of a smoky week in the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency announced new standards for wood stoves that are less stringent than those planned by the state, at least at first.
The EPA's much-anticipated wood stove regulations are proposed to go into effect throughout the country in 2015, requiring newly manufactured stoves to cut maximum emissions by more than a third. Those standards would tighten dramatically in 2019.
Wood stoves that already are installed or are for sale are not affected by the regulations, a Friday press release from the EPA stated.
The regulations come amid increasing research and scrutiny of fine particulate air pollution, known as PM 2.5, that has linked it to short- and long-term negative health impacts, such as heart and lung disease.
Fairbanks and North Pole have been struggling to meet the EPA's air pollution standards, with much of the focus being placed on wood burning as the primary source of PM 2.5. The EPA set a deadline of 2014, but compliance isn't expected to be reached for a number of years.
Under current regulations, a non-catalytic wood stove meets EPA certification if it produces less than 7.5 grams of PM 2.5 per hour.
The proposed EPA regulations would cut that down to 4.5 grams of PM 2.5 for all stoves manufactured after the date the regulations go into place.
The state's proposed regulations would set a limit of 2.5 grams of PM 2.5 for all heaters installed in areas that are deemed to be in non-attainment of the EPA's air pollution regulations.
In the justification for its limits, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation wrote that the EPA's current regulations, which were first adopted in 1988, are no longer effective.
"ADEC proposes more stringent emission standards for wood-fired heating devices than those currently adopted by EPA because the existing federal emission standards have been and continue to be inadequate to prevent deterioration of air quality in Alaska and exceedances of (National Ambient Air Quality Standards)," the justification document stated.
The DEC document goes on to say that the 2.5 grams of PM 2.5 level will "allow for the continued use of wood fuel ... as a necessary means of addressing high energy costs."
The EPA originally had considered a 2.5 gram limit as its strictest limit to go into effect in 2019 when it sent draft regulations to states in 2011 but went with a much stricter 1.3 grams per hour, a more than 80 percent reduction from current maximums.
Only a handful of the stoves on the EPA's certified stove list would meet those standards in 2019.
However, the EPA focused primarily on the savings to health costs and money spent on wood in the closing paragraphs of the press release announcing the change.
"When these standards are fully implemented, EPA estimates that for every dollar spent to comply with these standards, the American public will see between $118 and $267 in health benefits," it said. "Consumers will also see a monetary benefit from efficiency improvements in the new wood stoves, which use less wood to heat homes. The total health and economic benefits of the proposed standards are estimated to be at $1.8 (billion) to $2.4 billion annually."
For more information on the proposed standards, which would begin to go into effect in 2015, and for a place to provide comment, visit www2.epa.gov/residential-wood-heaters.
Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.