|U.S. EPA Proposes
to Tighten Fine Particulate Standards
Plans to Protect Residential Woodburning
January 30, 2006
|On December 20, 2005,
the U.S. EPA proposed to tighten the 24-hour standard for PM2.5, or fine
particulates. These standards cover soot with a diameter of up to 2.5 microns.
If EPA issues the proposal as a final rule, the hearth industry will feel
increased pressure from air regulators across the country.
The proposed standard will lower the 24-hour limit from 65 to 35 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3), and leave the annual limit (an average over the entire year) unchanged at 15 µg/m3. The agency is also proposing an entirely new 24-hour standard of 70 µg/m3 for particles in the 2.5-10 micron diameter range.* The proposal complies with the settlement of a lawsuit to force EPA to review and potentially revise the standard every five years, as required by the Clean Air Act. Under the provisions of the settlement, EPA had to propose a standard by December 20, 2005, and must issue a final decision on the proposal – i.e., adopt it or retain the current standard – by September 27, 2006.
The existing PM2.5 standard was issued in 1997 and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2001. Since then, EPA and the states have been implementing that standard: monitoring the air to determine which areas do not comply with the standard, and setting deadlines for nonattainment areas to draw up and then implement plans for cleaning up their air sheds. The industry is watching the process carefully to ensure that woodburning is not banned or otherwise severely limited in these plans.
Areas not in compliance with the current PM2.5 standard are generally major metropolitan areas east of the Mississippi River, plus the Los Angeles and Central Valley basins in California and Libby, Montana. HPBA has just completed a study that ranks those areas, based on factors of importance to the hearth industry, and will begin approaching air planners in the higher ranking areas first to educate them about such measures as:
* woodstove changeouts,
The proposed regulations, if adopted, will probably trigger new non-attainment areas and will have two results. First, many of the areas that are in attainment for the current standard may find themselves in nonattainment for the new standard – i.e., more areas will have to plan for reducing fine particulate levels. Because EPA already has the monitoring data that it needs for the new limits, it can already predict which areas may be swept in by the proposed rules. Besides adding more eastern cities, the proposal would add western cities such as Salt Lake City and Seattle to the list of nonattainment areas. Second, while areas that were planning to comply with the 65 µg/m3 standard will have five extra years to comply with the lower and more stringent standard of 35 µg/m3, many of those areas may choose to begin planning for compliance with the lower (proposed) standard, and somewhat bypass planning for the higher (existing) standard.
The net result would be that more areas would have to comply with a lower standard for PM2.5. This will unquestionably bring more pressure on residential woodburning.
There is much work ahead for the hearth industry, besides meetings with air planners, to protect residential woodburning. We must monitor planning by air regulators in each of the areas that are currently in nonattainment, and be prepared to respond – in numbers – when and if proposals surface that will limit woodburning. This will involve (i) keeping an eye on proposals that reduce PM2.5 at the expense of residential woodburning, (ii) writing letters and calling public officials, and (iii) attending public hearings. HPBA and your affiliate will work with you, but we will only be successful in preserving residential woodburning in these nonattainment areas if you donate a little time when asked to speak out for the industry. When we ask for your help, please provide it. You will be working to preserve your future.
We will keep you apprised of developments in the proposed tightening of the PM2.5 standard nationally, as well as developments in your area. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Jack Goldman at email@example.com or John Crouch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* EPA is also proposing to eliminate the annual standard
for PM10 (particles with a diameter of 10 microns or less) and to eliminate
the 24-hour standard for PM10, except in areas (i) that have populations
of 100,000 or more or (ii) that have current violations of that standard
(at last until areas have been designated as out of compliance with the
new 24-hours standard for PM2.5-10).