New York, NY — Yesterday, a bipartisan coalition of 10 attorneys general led by New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a complaint against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to revise standards for air pollution from wood heaters. Smoke from wood heaters contains harmful pollutants, including particulate matter and carbon monoxide, which can lead to dangerous heart, lung, and other health effects. EPA is required by the Clean Air Act to review and revise New Source Performance Standards for wood heaters every eight years, but has failed to meet this deadline. In the complaint, the AGs explain that this failure endangers the health of states’ residents and disrupts state efforts to meet emissions reductions goals, as well as frustrates state efforts to incentivize cleaner wood stoves. The AGs are asking the court to order EPA to “promptly complete review, propose, and promulgate necessary revisions.”
“Wood heaters release smoke full of dangerous pollutants, harming residents and communities. These standards must be updated to protect peoples’ health and the environment,” said Bethany Davis Noll, Executive Director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center. “EPA needs to act quickly to make these overdue updates.”
Background — The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set pollution standards for residential appliances and other sources that significantly contribute to air pollution and endanger public health, such as wood heaters. The Act also requires EPA to revisit these New Source Performance Standards every eight years, consider whether stronger limits are achievable, and revise the standards accordingly.
It has been over eight years since EPA reviewed and revised its standards for wood heaters; the last update was in 2015, when a coalition of states sued the agency for failing to complete the required review. Updates are sorely needed. The tests that EPA uses to certify wood heaters have been shown to be ineffective. An independent study, which was later corroborated by EPA itself, found that EPA’s testing program was not effective at determining whether wood heaters comply with the agency’s standards. Though EPA is no longer using these testing programs, wood heaters that were certified by these tests remain on the market.
The attorneys general of Alaska, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, along with the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, joined AG James in filing yesterday’s complaint.
About the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center:
The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at NYU School of Law is a nonpartisan academic center at NYU School of Law. The Center is dedicated to working towards a healthy and safe environment, guided by inclusive and equitable principles. The Center studies and supports the work of state attorneys general (AGs) in defending, enforcing, and promoting strong laws and policies in the areas of climate, environmental justice, environmental protection, and clean energy.