Editorial: Keep EPA out of our fireplaces
If the Environmental Protection Agency thinks taking on utility companies is heavy lifting, wait until it feels the ire of angry Yoopers.
The EPA has turned its regulatory blitz on wood stoves and fireplaces, and Americans are finally starting to fight back at the grassroots level.
Stricter proposed restrictions on particulates generated by burning wood have sparked a rebellion of sorts against an agency that continues to squeeze dollars out of consumer pocketbooks.
Burning wood for heat has become an increasingly popular alternative for those struggling with stagnant household incomes. That’s particularly true in rural areas such as Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where trees are plentiful and access to natural gas lines is spotty.
For folks willing to cut and split their own wood, stoves and fireplace inserts can cut their heating expenses to nearly nothing.
The alternatives — oil, propane and electricity — are much more expensive.
What the EPA is seeking is a stringent update of 1988 standards for new stoves and inserts that would reduce particulate emissions by 70 percent.
Meeting the proposed mandates will drive up the cost of the stoves, and drive many small producers, many of whom are based in Michigan, out of business.
About 10 percent of U.S. households burn wood, and the number relying on it as their primary heating source rose by one-third during the harsh economic years between 2005 and 2012.
Development of more efficient furnaces and outdoor boilers that use wood pellets have helped drive the surge in wood-burning heaters.
Michigan is the No. 1 state in terms of emissions from wood burners, according to the EPA.
But the state isn’t rolling over for the federal regulators. Last year, lawmakers passed legislation barring the state from enforcing the EPA rules. At least four other states have joined the defiance effort.
State Sen. Tom Casperson, the Upper Peninsula Republican who sponsored the bill, say costs of the EPA mandates will fall heaviest on those least able to afford them.
“The people using these things ... a lot of them don’t make a whole lot of money,” Casperson says. “They use it to help survive in this kind of region.”
Users of the stoves may be short on money, but they are willing to use their chain saws and log splitters to take care of themselves. That’s an instinct the government should be encouraging.
It’s not easy to get by in places like the U.P., where wood burning rates are highest. The federal government should not make it more difficult with expensive new regulations on people who already are finding it too hard to get by.