EPA finalizes amendments to 2015 NSPS for wood heating appliances

By Erin Voegele | March 12, 2020

The U.S. EPA on March 11 finalized amendments to the 2015 new source performance standards (NSPS) for residential wood heating appliances. The amendments remove the minimum requirements for pellet fuel and clarify a requirement regarding the use of unseasoned wood to make pellets.

The rule removes most of the minimum requirements for pellet fuel contained in the 2015 NSPS, but retains a prohibition that pellet fuel must not contain any of the prohibited fuels that were listed in the 2015 NSPS. The EPA said minimum requirements for pellet fuel are already included in the standards used by the Pellet Fuels Institute and other EPA-approved third-parties for the grading of pellet fuels.

The prohibited fuels include residential or commercial garbage; lawn clippings or yard waste; materials containing rubber, including tires; materials containing plastic; waste petroleum products, paints or paint thinners, or asphalt products; materials containing asbestos; construction or demolition debris; and paper products, cardboard, plywood or particleboard; railroad ties, pressure-treated wood or pallets; manure or animal remains; salt water driftwood or other previously salt water saturated materials; unseasoned wood; any materials that are not included in the warranty and owners manual for the subject wood heater; or any materials that were not included in the certification tests for the subject wood heater.

In the rule, the EPA said it has decided to leave the prohibited fuels list in the regulation for clarity and continuity as these materials are referred to in the provisions regarding prohibited fuel types in other parts of the regulation.

The final rule also maintains the compliance dates that were established in the original NSPS. This means retailers have until May 15, 2020 to sell wood heating devises that do not comply with more stringent emission standards. The rule does not provide a sell-through period that would allow retailers additional time to sell those devises beyond the May 2020 compliance date.

The rulemaking does not impact residential wood heating appliances that are already in use by homeowners. It also does not replace any state or local requirements governing wood heating devise use.

The PFI has spoken out in support of the final rule. “The members of the Pellet Fuels Institute are pleased with the EPA’s decision to eliminate the minimum pellet fuel requirements from the New Source Performance Standard,” said Tim Portz, executive director of the PFI. “We’re also happy they clarified their position on the use of pallet derived fiber in the manufacturing of wood pellets. The comments released today make it clear that our over five year effort to have our voices and arguments heard resulted in this important regulatory victory.”

“From the beginning our chief argument was that a robust, comprehensive, consensus-based industry standard for wood pellets already existed, the PFI Standards Program,” Portz added. “The comments justifying the amendments to the rule make it clear that our argument was heard. The PFI Standards Program was built with input from the regulatory community including the EPA. Unannounced audits, regular third-party testing and an annual metals test are all components of our program informed by our ongoing dialogue with regulators.”

John Ackerly, the president for the Alliance for Green Heat, said he thinks the final rule strikes a good balance, but stresses it would have given the wood heating industry more certainty if it was finalized a year ago.

Ackerly said he thinks most stove manufacturers and retailers are prepared to meet the May 15 deadline, but notes some were holding out hope the sell through period would be extended. He offered Pacific Energy as an example of a manufacturer that has been way ahead of the game when it comes to meeting the new source performance standards. “Pacific Energy…started getting their 2020 stoves ready years ago, so their retailers are all fine,” he said.

A full copy of the final rule can be downloaded from the EPA website