ALBANY — The state has backed off regulating owners of outdoor wood-burning boilers, instead aiming its cross hairs at manufacturers and dealers.
A proposal for regulations that apply only to new boilers is slated to go before the state Department of Environmental Conservation's Environmental Board on Wednesday. Regulations will affect boilers put into use on and after April 15. The regulations for residential boilers include a setback distance of 100 feet from the nearest property line, stack height requirements of at least 18 feet and certification and paperwork submitted to DEC's regional office in Albany.
Kenneth L. Decker, owner of Decker Heating & Construction, Harrisville, said selling a boiler is a simple task, for now.
He said he tells customers, "Right now you're free to buy what you wish."
With the customer, he reviews the requirements of a voluntary program by the U.S. Environmental Protective Agency to encourage the use of cleaner-burning boilers and explains the differences in the models he sells.
After the customer decides which unit to buy, Mr. Decker said, he determines what size boiler is needed based on what it will heat.
"The customer says 'let's do it,' we deliver it and we'll install it if they want us to," Mr. Decker said.
But the ease of the transaction will change if the regulations are approved, he said.
Mr. Decker said the new regulations would add 10 to 15 hours of work a week during his busy season in the fall. He employs two people, and if these regulations are imposed, he said, he would have to hire additional help, but times are tough.
"The state is broke and so are we," he said. "They probably won't pay for any of this. It will all fall onto us. DEC is an unregulated agency in the state. There is no other lawmaking body that can simply do whatever they please without someone overseeing their actions."
DEC spokeswoman Lori M. Severino said the state probably would not reimburse dealers for extra expenses incurred by the new regulations, but she said the impact on dealers would be minimal.
Dealers will have to provide a notice-to-buyers statement that explains the regulations and a list of fuels deemed appropriate by the state. The owner's name and address, the manufacturer's name, boiler information, stack height and distance to the nearest property line must be sent to DEC's regional office within seven days of delivery.
"We're not in the process of surveying," Mr. Decker said. "These requirements would call for at least one or two trips back and forth to the owner's home. We don't have the manpower for that here."
Ms. Severino said the responsibility to submit the notice is the buyer's, but the draft of the regulation says the buyer's information must be included in the notice required by the dealer.
She said personal information on boiler owners is being requested because "it is a heat source that affects the environment. OWBs are unique in that they're polluting the air."
In addition, buyers must be notified that "there may be conditions or locations in which the use of a new outdoor wood boiler unreasonably interferes with another person's use or enjoyment of property or even damages human health ... the owner ... may be subject to sanctions that can include a requirement to remove the device at their own expense as well as any other penalty allowed by law," according to the state's proposed regulation.
DEC reserves the right to determine what is unreasonable interference and how the situation will be handled.
Manufacturers of wood-burning boilers will have their own requirements to follow to sell in New York. Beginning April 15, only new, state-certified models will be allowed. They must be affixed with a permanent label that includes the name and address of the manufacturer, the manufacture date, the model name and number, the thermal output rating and the emission rate. The state also will require two copies of the certification process, four color photos of the boiler, engineering drawings and specifications of the boiler. Currently, manufacturers submit this information to the EPA, but with the new regulations they would be required to submit the same information to DEC.
"This is definitely going to create a bit more of an expense, which will fall back on the owners," said Todd M. Strem, the sales and marketing director for Wood Master, an outdoor wood-burning boiler manufacturer from Red Lake Falls, Minn. "I don't know why they can't just rely on what we send to the EPA. If there is more than one set of rules to follow, that will pretty much become a nightmare. The state is going to hurt a large industry and force people to rely on fossil fuels."
Catherine C. Milbourn, senior press officer for the EPA, said the agency has not established any mandatory standards for emission limits but is considering options. She said the EPA is scheduled to propose emission limits as part of the Clean Air Act in June.
Rodney Tollefson, vice president of Central Boiler, a manufacturer in Greenbush, Minn., said the New York regulations are not consistent with other states.
"There is no reason why a residential boiler can't be more than 250,000 BTUs," he said. Under the regulations, anything larger than 250,000 British thermal units is considered a commercial-sized boiler and would require a different set of requirements.
"The setbacks don't make a lot of sense either," Mr. Tollefson said. "Some of the bigger furnaces aren't dirty; they are some of the cleanest on the market. There is no reason for them to be required to be set back."
Finally, the state will require that every five years, manufacturers apply for certification for each model.
"We'll need to figure out just how much money we are going to spend so that we can continue to sell in New York," Mr. Strem said. "There is a possibility we wouldn't want to continue to sell in the state. I think New York is just being rather difficult."