EPA fails to extend sales deadline for Step 1 wood heaters

By Erin Voegele | December 01, 2020

The Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association posted a notice to its website on Nov. 18 announcing it has received confirmation from the U.S. EPA that the agency will not be providing a sell-through period for Step 1 residential wood heating appliances.

Under statute, residential heating devices that meet Step 1 standards under the 2015 new source performance standards for residential wood heaters could only be sold through May 15, 2020. On the date of that deadline, the EPA announced a proposal that was expected to allow manufacturers and retailers additional time to sell residential wood heating devices that meet Step 1 standards due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The amendment proposed by the EPA was issued in response to the unprecedented market disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in significant losses in retail sales due to temporary closures of stores, stay-at-home orders, and other restrictions. In May, the EPA said the proposed action would ensure retailers regain time for normal business operations lost due to the pandemic. Under the proposed amendment, the sales period would be reopened through Nov. 30, 2020.

A public comment period opened on the proposed amendments was open through July 6. A virtual public hearing was held June 8. 

More than six months after the EPA first announced plans to amend the sales deadline for Step 1 wood heating appliances, the agency has failed to follow through and finalize the proposed amendments. With the proposed deadline of Nov. 30 now past, it seems unlikely the EPA will pursue any additional action. John Ackerly, founder and president of the Alliance for Green Heat, said he thinks its fair to say that the clock has run out on the timing for a sell-through given the Nov. 30 end date of the proposal. “Granting a sell-through may have run up against some internal resistance at the EPA, and could have contributed to the delays in ruling on it,” he added.

Biomass Magazine reached has reached out to the EPA seeking confirmation that the agency will not move forward with a sell-through for Step 1 appliances. To date, the agency has not responded.

In the Nov. 18 notice posted to its website, the HPBA said it has received official word from the EPA that it will not be provided a sell-through of any kind for Step 1 products. The HPBA said the EPA confirmed its action was not due to a lack of advocacy efforts, but said the agency “was delayed during other parts of the process by other agencies.”

The HPBA also noted that there will be no option to donate Step 1 products, as the EPA would be first required to publish a rule change to distinguish between prohibited sales and donations. “There is not enough time for EPA to do even this, and the rule change would face opposition that would kill the effort,” the HPBA said in the statement.

With no sell-through period or donation option, the HPBA said any remaining Step 1 products should be recycled or destroyed. “They cannot even be given away as the EPA prohibits the transfer of ownership of a Step 1 product after May 15, 2020,” the HPBA said.  

“This is extremely disappointing news, especially in light of the second wave of COVID-19 cases impacting families and small businesses,” the HPBA added.

Additional information on the proposed rule is available on the EPA website.