2012 Feb. 1: CT Hartford: Outdoor wood furnaces again a legislative issue – Journal Inquirer
Outdoor wood furnaces again a legislative issue
By Ed Jacovino
Journal Inquirer Tuesday, January 31, 2012
HARTFORD – Environmentalists are counting a new supporter in their
efforts to ban new outdoor wood furnaces until the state comes up with
new regulations for them. But they won’t get much support from the
state agency that would do the work.
The new support comes from the state Council on Environmental Quality,
which plans to make the issue a priority this year, according to Karl
Wagener, the group’s executive director.
And the group Environment and Human Health Inc., which has led on
efforts to impose a moratorium on the furnaces, has signed onto
Wagener’s proposal, EHHI President Nancy Alderman said.
They’re proposing a moratorium on new outdoor furnaces and want the
state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to adopt
emission regulations for both new and existing furnaces by 2014.
The groups also want to strengthen enforcement by the DEEP and
municipalities and to clarify existing rules that say how far an
outdoor wood furnace can be from neighboring homes and how tall its
chimney must be.
But DEEP isn’t totally on board.
“We do not have a specific proposal in our legislative package on
outdoor wood furnaces,” Dennis Schain, a spokesman for the department,
said today. “But we recognize existing laws and regulations aren’t
working and we want to work with all interested and concerned
The issue, however, isn’t one that DEEP plans to “push,” Schain said.
The issue has heated up during the past two legislative sessions.
Measures banning or imposing a moratorium on the furnaces have failed
to become law in each of the last two legislative sessions. Advocates
cite environmental and health concerns over their smoke. Opponents,
who are farmers or live in rural areas, contend the furnaces use a
renewable resource and are a less expensive heating option. They also
say that regulation should be handled on the town level.
The furnaces, usually in standalone structures, can be used to heat an
A bill aimed at compromise last year would have instituted energy
efficiency standards, increased regulation over chimney height, and
toughened penalties for violators. Environmental groups didn’t support
the measure, which cleared the legislature’s Environment and Public
Health committees but wasn’t taken up by the state Senate before the
2011 session’s end.
The CEQ is new to the debate, and plans to focus on the issue. “We
responded to complaints to our council,” Wagener said. “Based on us
receiving even more complaints, the council thought it was something
that could not be ignored.”
While Alderman welcomed the council’s backing, she said she’s
disappointed that DEEP isn’t taking a stronger stand.
She said she heard from a lawmaker that the agency wasn’t giving the
proposal backing because of staffing concerns.
State Rep. Bryan Hurlburt, D-Tolland, who opposes a state ban on wood
furnaces, said he doesn’t see much need to change the existing laws.
“In areas where you have large tracts of land and you have much larger
areas of personal property, they could work,” Hurlburt said.
He also promoted the wood fuel as a local source of alternative
energy, saying it is cut down cheaply and comes from local forests,
making it more environmentally friendly than oil or gas.
And Hurlburt said towns have taken the issue on themselves.
So far, 17 towns have banned outdoor wood furnaces, including Tolland,
Hebron, and South Windsor. Others, such as Somers and Coventry, have
approved them but imposed regulations.