Seven States Sue EPA To Crack Down on Residential Wood Burning

Barbara Hollingsworth | November 15, 2013 | 3:47pm EST
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Wood-fired boiler (AP photo)

( – A lawsuit filed against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by seven states is seeking to force the federal agency to impose stringent new regulations on residential wood-burning heaters, which they claim “can increase particle pollution to levels that cause significant health concerns.” (See EPA wood-burning lawsuit.pdf)

The lawsuit, filed last month in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by the attorneys general of Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont, is directed against currently unregulated “indoor and outdoor wood boilers,” which have become an increasingly popular way to heat homes, particularly in rural areas.

related suit was filed by the environmental group Earthjustice.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011 American Housing Survey (AHS) reported that 2.4 million housing units – or 12 percent of all American homes - now burn wood as their main heating fuel, compared to 7 percent heated with fuel oil.

Although wood is a renewable resource, “EPA estimates that outdoor wood boilers will produce more than 20 percent of wood burning emissions by 2017,” the lawsuit claims.

If the lawsuit is successful in forcing EPA to impose new regulations on wood-burning heating units, many low- and middle-class families living primarily in rural areas may be forced to spend thousands of dollars to switch to newer units or use more expensive forms of energy in order to stay warm.

“This collusive lawsuit is intended to expand EPA authority to stop burning wood,” Dr. John Dale Dunn, a physician and policy adviser for the Heartland Institute, told, adding that “small particles are the mainstay of EPA’s regulatory regime.”

“There’s no real dispute here,” he pointed out, adding that the lawsuit is “more akin to professional wrestling than an actual case. It’s another expansion of the leviathan.”

“EPA has been playing this game for years,” Dunn, who is also a lawyer, continued. “Environmental groups get together to file a lawsuit against the EPA with the goal of creating a new regulation.  EPA wants them to file the lawsuit because it wants to put the new regulation in effect, but it doesn’t have the statutory authority to do so. It’s like Brer Rabbit saying, ‘Please don’t throw me in the briar patch!”

Such lawsuits, he added, do not meet the legal standard of “cases in controversy,” in which the court is called upon to settle a real dispute. “They are nothing but an opportunity for the courts to take power and authority from the legislative and executive branches of the government since the courts supervise the settlements. It’s a way the courts can become another legislature.”

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