New York AG Schneiderman sues EPA over wood boilers/heaters


New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, is trying to clear the air by suing the Environmental Protection Agency. Along with his counterparts from six other states, Schneiderman claims the EPA has failed to cap emissions from residential wood-burning heaters. That failure, the lawsuit contends, is a violation of the Clean Air Act.

“EPA’s regulations simply haven’t kept pace with the proliferation of wood-burning devices or the availability of cleaner-burning units,” Schneiderman said in a news release. “Smoke from residential wood-burning heaters poses a serious health threat, especially in New York’s rural communities. This lawsuit aims to force the EPA to comply with the Clean Air Act and provide overdue leadership in requiring new wood heaters to meet stricter pollution standards – an action that will save consumers money, improve local air quality and safeguard public health.”

Wood smoke, in small doses, at least, smells nice and conjures thoughts of cozy autumn nights around the fire place. But it can also be an irritant and carries pollutants that, the AG says, are “linked to serious public health impacts, including asthma attacks, heart attacks and premature death.”

Wood-burning heaters and boilers, smoky though they may be, have their benefits, too. Chief among them: they don’t burn oil or gas. If you’ve got a bit of land and some trees to spare, you can harvest your own fuel. It’s not known how many outdoor wood furnaces there are in the Lower Hudson Valley; Schneiderman’s release cites a 2008 study that counted 14,500 outdoor wood boilers sold in New York between 1999 and 2007.

Joining New York in the lawsuit are Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont. The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency is on board, too.

It might be some time before they get a response from the EPA. With the federal government shut down, agencies like the EPA are largely shuttered.

Residents of the Putnam, Rockland and Westchester: Do you have a wood-fired, outdoor furnace? What do like/dislike about it? What are your thoughts on the lawsuit? Leave a note in the comments section or email me, Ned, at


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  1. what’s a guy from Brooklyn know about wood stoves?

    this will cost upstaters big time.

    grandstanding at its best.

  2. Bill,
    This is Ned from the Journal News/ writing. Do you have a wood stove or furnace? I’m working on a story about their prevalence in the area. If you live around here and would be interested in talking with me, drop me a line at

    Thanks for reading and commenting,

  3. This is total nonsense, they can’t win against the big corporate polluters so it will be much easier and more profitable to go after all the little people that enjoy having a wood burning stove for the dry heat and all thoughs that have them so they can make ends meet and not have to decide weather to heat the house or feed the family. What’s next, no more camp fires due to the smoke. They should put more effort into stopping all the chemicals that are released into the enviormnet that are poisining us.

  4. I love the wood burning stove. I don’t believe it pollutes more than an oil furnace. If you take the amounts of pollutants put out by an oil furnace then add the pollution expelled to drill and produce the oil, the pollution expelled to mine and manufacture the metals to build the furnaces, I think far far exceeds the pollution of a wood burning stove and the pollution produced I feel is much less dangerous than the chemical pollution released into the air, water and ground by the modern high tech system . We can also add the pollution from all the fuel oil delivery trucks.

  5. I bet taxpayers are fitting this bill. New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, Oregon, and Vermont already specifically regulate outdoor wood burners. Washington allows them if you test to their own made up Standard. The work EPA and the manufacturer’s did in EPA’s Voluntary emission reduction programs with PM output limits, efficiency, labeling products allowed each of these States to then adopt all or portions of this work at the State level to create laws/regulations. I wonder if the AG’s are aware that the State air regulating agencies have been the biggest interuption to the NSPS process? By the way, EPA sent the NSPS package to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) before these States started this initial process so EPA is moving forward.

  6. If the UL/ National appliance emissions/ efficiency standard was enough to be effective against smog, (invisible compararitive epidemiological PM miasma aside) then Air Quality authoritive ETS wannabes would have a mechanism to regulate. The wood stove appliance standards since they don’t cover the efficiency and emissions issues caused by a lack of ventilation control, in typical winter atmospheric conditions, are offsetting costs to those who cannot afford it and are not worthwhile. The standard needs to include creosote issues and the fundamental winter problem affecting the exhaust. Cowls with pressure differential technology do exist, could be researched, but the environmental lawmakers are too impractical, too tied up in shifting costs from industry to consumers, and industry lobbies – especially electricity and fuel, are too greedy. Consumers are being shafted by bogus science and bogus economic policy.

  7. commends the NY AG and other States for finally suing the EPA for its failure to include ALL wood burning appliances in the New Source Performance Standards. EPA is 17 years overdue in closing a loophole. This loophole has destroyed the lives and health of many in NY and other States as wood BOILERs have proliferated. These boilers emit ground level pollution that is deadly.

    The NY AG issued the report Smoke Gets in Your Lungs in 2005 and 2008 detailing the emissions and the health impacts. With nearly 1 in 10 people w/asthma this amount of pollution can cause severe asthma attacks and even death from heart attacks not to mention changes in your body that can lead to cancer. The fine particulate matter, PAHs, VOCs, and carcinogens in wood smoke are deadly and vastly not understood by the general public.

    There is no excuse for manufacturers not building boilers that meet the same emissions standards as have been in place for wood stoves since the 1980s. EPAs failure to regulate and instead begin a “partnership” with industry with their Voluntary Program has misled many into purchasing these highly polluting boilers. EPA’s Voluntary Program’s mislead was detailed by a NYSERDA report. The EPA test methods vastly under reported emissions and 90% of the data submitted by industry was missing or incorrect.

    The AG lawsuit is a culmination of years of studies and complaints associated w/wood boilers. It is too bad that EPA did not lead on this issue and now some families have suffered for over 10 years with very serious health impacts. In Alaska the children and staff at Woodriver Elementary school were sickened to the point that one staffer ended up in the hospital w/their lung function reduced to 20% and children had to depend upon inhalers. The Alaska AG sued and the Voluntary Program boilers were shut down.

    CARENY is encouraging the AG to file a second lawsuit for damages so that buyback programs can assist homeowners who unwittingly bought wood boilers that are harming their health and that of their neighbors.

  8. All of my neighbors burn wood. It infiltrates my house. My family is being expose to this “second hand smoke” and it is violating my rights. The joke is, one of my neighbors thinks she is an environmentalist. How can I get these people to stop ruining the air quality inside my house.