2012 Jan. 28: NY: Response to Senator Gillibrand’s email concerning OWBs in NY State
2012 Jan. 28: NY: Response to Senator Gillibrand’s email concerning OWBs in NY State
As Chief of Staff I am writing to you because we are totally confused as to the response we have received from Senator Gillibrand dated January 20, 2012 in response to our correpsondence dating from August thru December and the discussions with stafferRebecca Symes in the NY Office.
Although our first contact with Senator Gillibrand’s office by my husband was on his request for an assist to stop the unrelenting pollution on our home I was quite clear with Ms. Symes that this issue is much more global impacting thousands of families in the Northeast and Midwest because of EPAs failure to update the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for Residential wood burning devices in nearly 25 years despite a requirement to do reviews and updates I believe every 8 years to comply with the Clean Air Act.
Attached are the series of letters we have exchanged with Senator Gillibrand’s staff — it should be noted we sent letters first to the Albany office, rec’d call from Washington office and then did not realize that NY office was handling the issue. We were never given one clear contact person to deal with. To say that finding your way thru bureaucracy is confusing would be an understatement.
At this point we are very confused as to what if any action Senator Gillibrand is taking with the EPA on the issue of wood boilers. The EPA has failed to protect the public’s health by not doing the required updates to the NSPS. By not closing a loophole they have allowed these unregulated devices to proliferate to an estimated 500,000 per Northeast States Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM) emitting up to 900,000 tons of pollution per year often within 35 feet of other people’s homes. NESCAUM has estimated the pollution to being equivalent to living downwind of 50 diesel trucks. The smoke from wood boilers is dense and filled with fine particulate (PM 2.5), PAHs, VOCs, and carcinogens —this information has been shared with Staffer Symes (see attached timeline). Currently 1 in 11 people have asthma in the U.S. Wood smoke is an asthma trigger. EPAs failure to regulate this pollutant is causing millions of dollars in hospitalizations, Doctor visits, missed school and missed work. No U.S. families should have to endure their homes being engulfed in woodsmoke 365 days a year for hours at a time every day far exceeding the National Ambient Air Quality Standards because government has failed to do its job. This is a very big Environmental Justice issue for thousands of families not just ours.
I would be most interested in receiving a copy of the response received from EPA in response to Senator Gillibrand’s request which we were advised she pursued. All of our research has shown that the EPA staffers, Gil Wood and Larry Brockman spend many hours of staff time meeting with and briefing the lobbyists for wood boilers, the Hearth, Patio and Barbeque Association (HPBA). Their most recent meeting with these lobbyists was on 12/8. These meetings have resulted in the EPA instituting a Voluntary Program that is allowing the continued manufacture and sale of any and all wood boilers. The “old models” can emit up to 269 grams per hour of pollution and the “new models” can emit up to 95 grams per hour . Wood stoves since 1992 have been required to be sold emitting no more than 4 grams per hour and yet wood BOILERS remain UNREGULATED. This policy vaccuum by EPA and the drumbeat of lobbyists is creating a huge social injustice to rural residents who often have their homes engulfed in smoke making them very sick. It is a nightmare. I can forward you plenty of pictures and You Tube links as well as the contacts I have in other States with other Citizen Groups trying to address this issue in their States (I have copied some of them on this email since we are trying to join together to effectuate change both at the State and Federal levels.)
It should be noted that in Sept. 2011 the NY State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) released a report detailing that 90% of the data EPA used to certify to the Voluntary Program was missing or incomplete. We all believe this warrants an investigation into either EPA or the labs they contracted with. It is our understanding that some of these labs are members of the HPBA — certainly an appearance of questionnable “independence.”
In addition EPA uses the Method 28 test for the Voluntary Program. This test uses kiln dried red oak. This is not real world burning and so not real world emissions. EPA is totally skewing emissions and confusing State regulators, Legislators and the public on the fact that there are NO regulations on wood boilers and the Voluntary Program is a misrepresentation. Those living downwind of Phase II Voluntary boilers can attest to the degree of pollution. I can assure you it is not something you would want to experience.
The EPA has been drafting and redrafting regulations for years. NESCAUM and Westar have both sent letters to EPA about the delays and problems it is creating for years. The latest draft of the NSPS EPA shared on 12/8 with the HPBA is showing that EPA is going to propose the Voluntary Program being the New Standard. How can this be when countless reports are showing emissions can be nearly 25 times that which was established 20 years ago for wood stoves? This is a giant step backward in protecting the public’s health and our air. PM 2.5 is a major health issue. NYS continues to receive an “F” in many counties for air quality in the American Lung’s annual report, State of the Air. In fact American Lung has written letters citing the issues with wood boilers but just has not had the staff time or money to devote to bringing this issue to the forefront. This is unfortunate given there are now over 500,000 boilers that have resulted from the EPA loophole in regulations.
The EPA Voluntary Program is being used by manufacturers in false advertising by confusing the public into thinking these boilers are meeting an EPA standard. President Obama signed I believe an Executive Order that Science was supposed to rule over Economics but this has not been complied with by EPA as they continually delay and water down draft NSPS.
Because the issue of the non-regulation of wood boilers is so under the radar in the Environmental Community, the NRDC did not realize that Legislation they helped draft to extend Energy Credits (S 1914) would allow tax credits to be given for people to install dirtier technology than they were replacing. We citizen groups caught wind of this and wrote to Senators Snow, et al and the Legislation I believe was ultimately changed. Government is so big now that the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. We citizens are frankly exhausted from running in place! I am copying those at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, NRDC, and the Appliance Awareness Project on this email because they are by S1914 associated with this EPA loophole. I have not had time to reach out to them but know others in our network have.
Our research and conversations with State Regulators have told us that wood bio-mass is a very big conversation in Washington by the industry. The drumbeat is that wood is good. Wood is being pushed as a green energy alternative in a very big way by industry but also seems to include those at USDA. We are very concerned that we found the name of Trent Bauserman on a report issued by Wood Heat.org. This report appears to be a lobbying instrument for industry and includes the names of some who do not support its content but are made to look like they have given their seal of approval (EHHI for one). I found that Mr. Bauserman is the Energy Policy Advisor to Senator Jeanne Shaheen.
The EPA and Congress cannot afford to be siding with industry at the expense of the public. Wood smoke contains many of the same carcinogens that States have been working so hard to control from industrial polluters. http://burningissues.org/pdfs/WoodSmokeTobaccoSmtablemira.pdf The wrong bio-mass technology going forward as is occuring with residential wood boilers on an industrial basis is not something our air can take. Smoke is black soot. Black soot is a major carbon emission and thereby a major contributor to global warming. The ability to control what is burned, the right sizing, and the emission control technologies are huge hurtles.
We wrote to Senator Gillibrand to apprise her of this issue on a personal level and then on the more global level.
The response she received from DEC is a carefully edited reality. DEC is essentially lying to the Senator. Yes it is true they shut down the outdoor wood boiler next to us after 6 years of our begging for action AND after we hired a lawyer. Because they have not taken action to close the EPA loophole in NYS our neighbor then installed the very same type of device indoors and continues to pollute our air with unbelievable amounts of smoke that is absolutely putrid smelling because of the incomplete combustion and burning creosote — -a picture of our daughter’s playground engulfed in smoke was sent to Ms. Symes. We also have videos that are posted on You Tube. How much pollution is OK for a family to endure — Neither DEC nor EPA seem to care.
DEC has a 40 year old law for enforcement, Part 211. http://www.dec.ny.gov/regs/4265.html Part 247 that they refer to in their letter to Senator Gillibrand made the sale of the EPA voluntary rule boilers in NY legal. These boilers emit nearly 25 times that of indoor wood stoves and this rule does not address in place outdoor wood boilers nor cover indoor wood boilers per their letter to you. However DEC Part 211 is still on the books and still used primarily downstate when they receive complaints. Part 211 could be used by DEC staff in our case and in many others but they seemingly have chosen to not do their job upstate. I have FOILed documents from DEC Region 1 and received copies of letters DEC has sent using the very same laws they have neglected to tell Senator Gillibrand exist. Upstate NY is being essentially ignored by NYS DEC and are victims of Environmental Injustice.
What are families like ours to do when neither State nor Federal officials will enforce existing laws or close loopholes in laws? People cannot afford to file nuisance lawsuits on their own. We have been advised this could cost upwards of $40,000. How can this be? Weren’t the Clean Air Act and all the other laws put in place to protect the public and yet they have not.
The letter we received from Senator Gillibrand of 1/20/12 in no way addressed either our personal case nor dealt with the global issue. I would appreciate the Senator taking a harder look at this issue.
2136 US 20
Nassau, NY 12123