JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - A federal proposal to clean up the smoke wafting from wood-burning stoves has sparked a backlash from some rural residents, lawmakers and manufacturers who fear it could close the damper on one of the oldest ways of warming homes on cold winter days.
Proposed regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would significantly reduce the amount of particle pollution allowed from the smokestacks of new residential wood-powered heaters.
Wood-burning stoves are a staple in rural homes in many states, a cheap heating source for low-income residents and others wanting to lessen their reliance on gas or electric furnaces. Outdoor models often cost several thousand dollars, but indoor stoves can cost as little as a few hundred dollars and sometimes double as fashionable centerpieces in homes.
Some manufacturers contend the EPA's proposed standards are so stringent that the higher production costs would either force them out of business or raise prices so high that many consumers could no longer afford their products.
"There's not a stove in the United States that can pass the test right now - this is the death knoll of any wood burning," Reg Kelly, the founder of Earth Outdoor Furnaces in Mountain Grove, told Missouri lawmakers during a recent hearing.
More than three dozen Missouri lawmakers have co-sponsored a bill that would symbolically fight back against the EPA by declaring that "All Missourians have a right to heat their homes and businesses using wood-burning furnaces, stoves, fireplaces and heaters."
The EPA's existing regulations date to 1988 and don't apply to all of the different kinds of wood-burning devices now in use. Under a proposed rule change released last month, the EPA would give manufacturers five years to meet standards that would reduce emissions by an estimated 80 percent.