"The Most Regulated Industry" Faces the Future

By Jim Gillam

Originally published in SNEWS - The Chimney Sweep News, May-June 2005

"Hearth products are the most regulated industry of all the building materials out there," asserted Tom Pugh of Lloyd Pugh & Associates. Pugh's remarks came as he opened the Manufacturers' Plenary Caucus at the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association's (HPBA) Expo in Atlanta on February 23.

"The regulatory issues have evolved," Pugh declared. "This industry has come a long way, both in terms of the products built, but more importantly in it's relationship with the regulators who regulate us," Pugh said. Indicative of that relationship was the presence of special guests Karen Blanchard and Larry Brockman from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Non-Attainment Areas

The designation by the EPA of areas not meeting the national air quality standards for particulate pollution (PM2.5) was explained by John Crouch, HPBA's Director of Public Affairs.

John Crouch, HPBA's Director of Public Affairs, explains the new air quality designations as Larry Brockman and Karen Blanchard of the U.S. EPA listen intently.
States and tribes with designated nonattainment areas must submit plans to the EPA within three years that outline how they will meet the PM2.5 standards.

"Unlike what we went through with particulates in the 80s and early 90s, where they were Western areas, most of the new non-attainment areas are in the East," Crouch said. The 39 areas with excessive PM2.5 pollution include "virtually every major metropolitan area from St. Louis east to New York," he noted, as well as Libby, Montana and counties in central and southern California.

New Concepts in Fireplaces

Anticipating the implementation of air quality plans in areas that are home to over 90 million people, a task force of manufacturers and others from the fireplace industry is working toward developing an ASTM standard for a low emission residential woodburning fireplace, Crouch said. The HPBAWoodburning Fireplace ASTM Task Group hopes to have a standard in place before 2008, when the air quality plans are due.

"We hope to voluntarily create a new concept in clean burning fireplaces, which will allow planners in the metropolitan areas to specify it," Crouch declared. "When the planners in Atlanta, for example, look at their air plan for particulates, we want them to have more options than the planners did in Denver fifteen years ago.

"We hope that when the time comes in the East to look at what is going to be mandated," he continued, "gas will be encouraged. EPA-certified woodstoves will not be discouraged. But we hope to create a new middle ground for homebuilders -- that if they want to put in a woodburning fireplace, that it can be an ASTM fireplace.

"To do that, we first have to create consensus on measurement methods," Crouch said. The task force recently met at OMNI Labs in Beaverton, Oregon to discuss testing and measurement criteria. The group is involving EPA representatives in their deliberations.

"Unlike what we're used to with woodstoves, it would be a voluntary process, specific to individual communities," Crouch explained. "It would not be mandated across the country.

"What we contemplate is that the air plan for metropolitan Atlanta, for instance, might allow that product, involving potentially ten counties," he said. "Every other county in Georgia would continue to do what they do now.

Fireplace and chimney manufacturers such as Hearth & Home Technologies, CFM Majestic, Lennox Hearth Products, Monessen, Simpson Dura-Vent, R.H. Peterson and ICC have provided funds for research and hiring a technical consultant (Bob Ferguson).

Woodstove Changeouts

HPBA and EPA plan to cooperate in a series of woodstove changeout programs, beginning with pilot programs in the Pittsburgh, PA and Libby, MT areas this coming autumn. In addition, they are assisting in a changeout organized by the Dayton (Ohio) Air Quality Agency.

EPA hopes to initiate several more changeouts the following year and then to expand the program on a national basis. "We' re committed and enthusiastic about the partnership," said Karen Blanchard, Group Leader of the Program Implementation and Review Group (PIRG) of the Office of Air Quality and Standards of the EPA. "This is an opportunity to get real reductions in air pollution for real people."

Her colleague, Larry Brockman, then explained the rationale behind the agency's woodstove changeout initiative. "Residential woodsmoke is responsible for 6% of the total emissions of PM2.5 nationally," Brockman contended, "higher than the total of all the petroleum refineries, cement manufacturers and pulp and paper mills in the U.S. combined." He noted that the concentration varies by region, and that the concentration is much greater in Libby, Montana and somewhat less in certain cities in the South. "95% of woodsmoke is comprised of fine particles," he added.

Fine particles are known to lodge in the lungs when inhaled. In 1997, particulate pollution was responsible for 15,000 premature deaths, 75,000 cases of chronic bronchitis, 20,000 cases of acute bronchitis, 10,000 hospital admissions and 3.1 million lost work days, Brockman said.

Financial benefits of cleaner air amount to "hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions," he asserted.

EPA estimates that replacing ten uncertified woodstoves with cleaner burning appliances such as gas hearth products or EPA-certified woodstoves achieves a reduction in fine particulates equivalent to eliminating 70 diesel buses.

Educational Outreach

Consumer education will be another component of EPA's woodsmoke reduction initiative. Brockman said the EPA will emphasize that uncertified woodstoves generate more smoke and creosote, increasing the risk of chimney fires.

Dan Henry, co-founder of Quadrafire, noted that improvements in woodstoves and chimneys, including the proliferation of relining, have drastically reduced the number of woodstove-related fires. "That used to be the main topic of discussion at these meetings," he said. "Now it's not even an issue. EPA-certified woodstoves use half of the firewood, conserve resources and save the customer's money!" he added.


This article originally appeared in the May-June 2005 issue of SNEWS - The Chimney Sweep News.
The Chimney Sweep News is an independent trade journal for chimney professionals.
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