In an effort to curb pollution levels from residential wood stoves, the EPA proposed new rules that would ban ordinary wood-burning appliances, and mandate "next-gen" woodstoves and fireplace inserts (see the EPA announcement, published Jan 3, 2014).
Approved stoves include both catalytic and non-catalytic models, with slightly different standards for each (see the EPA's advisory: "Choosing the Right Wood Stove"). The smoke emission limit for non-catalytic wood stoves is 7.5 grams of smoke per hour (g/h), and 4.1 g/h for catalytic stoves. (In Washington state wood stoves must meet a stricter limit of 4.5 g/h for non-catalytic stoves and 2.5 g/h for catalytic stoves.)
However, newer wood burning appliances also come at a higher price, and the proposed mandate has drawn fire in Maine, where the Portland Press Herald reports nearly half of all Maine residents rely on some form of wood heat for winter heating. "In the poorest state in New England, where residents already struggle to heat their homes," the paper reported, "officials are worried that a federal proposal to reduce wood smoke pollution will make new stoves too expensive and prevent Mainers from buying cleaner technology."
Yet the initial expense of the appliance does not appear to be the only relevant cost. Supporting the new rules, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) testified at a public hearing in Boston of February 26 that residential wood smoke accounts for the largest direct source of anthropogenic particulate pollution in the nation. According to the EDF testimony: "The emissions reductions will result in up to 470 fewer lives lost every year for the next 8 years. The proposed standards will also prevent 10,000 upper and lower respiratory symptoms in children ages 7-14 and 15,000 asthma attacks in kids age 6-18 – every year. EPA has found these health benefits will have a value of up to $4 billion annually, almost 267 times the modest costs of the proposed rule."