Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Letter to the State of New York Concerning Outdoor Wood Boilers

June 16, 2010

John Barnes, P.E.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Division of Air Resources
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-3251

Re: Proposed Revision of 6 NYCRR Part 200, General Provisions and
Proposed Part 247, Outdoor Wood Boilers


The following comments are being provided in response to Proposed Revision of 6 NYCRR Part 200, General Provisions and Proposed Part 247, Outdoor Wood Boilers (“OWBs”).

In summary, we strongly urge the DEC to NOT adopt the proposed rulemaking (“Proposal” or “Regulation”) for the following reasons:

1. The Proposal will severely damage the economy of the State of New York by killing jobs, and by increasing heating costs by over 400 percent for many businesses and homeowners.

2. The Proposal will expose the DEC and the State to a potentially enormous legal liability associated with deaths and injuries resulting from carbon monoxide poisoning and house fires.

3. The Proposal will dramatically increase the emissions of greenhouse gasses.

4. The State consists of largely rural areas where outdoor wood boilers (OWB) do not impact anyone. Broad regulation of OWB throughout the entire State would be overly burdensome to citizens in most areas of the State. Therefore, any necessary regulation should be established at the local municipal level in densely populated areas only.

5. Establishing a stack height, phase out and seasonal operating limitations pertaining to existing OWB is ridiculous and unconstitutional.

6. To require an OWB owner to replace his legacy OWB or permanently remove his OWB by 2015 and no later than 2020 is unconstitutional and will be challenged in the courts.

I will now provide the following data to substantiate the above points:

1. Qualifying Model Cost:
The proposed rulemaking requirements would require a Phase 2 models which are more costly than traditional OWBs. Note the table below that compares a Standard OWB to a “Cleaner Unit” – this table shows that the “Cleaner Unit” costs 72 percent more, AND it produces less than HALF the amount of heat!

Comparison Standard OWB “Cleaner Unit” Disadvantage of “Cleaner Unit”
Example Model Hawken Energy
HE-1100 Central Boiler E-Classic 1400
EPA Phase 2 Certified? No Yes
Retail Price $5,595 $9,630 72% Higher cost
BTU Output 225,000 BTU/hr 107,500 BTU/hr 48% of the BTU output

Result of this Regulation? NY CITIZENS WILL BE BURDENED WITH SUCH HIGH COSTS FOR THESE “CLEANER UNITS” THAT THEY WILL LIKELY NOT BE ABLE TO AFFORD THEM. As a result, more fossil fuels will be burned in the State, thus creating more greenhouse gas emissions. Fossil fuel costs are much higher than biomass (wood) cost. Our State consists primarily of heavily-wooded, rural areas. It makes no sense to burden the citizens of our entire State with a rule that really only applies to a few densely populated areas that comprise a tiny fraction of our State.

2. Cost of Chimney Stack Extensions
The proposed rulemaking attempts to convince the reader that the cost of becoming compliant with their new stack height requirements would be minimal. This is completely false. An average cost for a homeowner to make this modification to an existing OWB would be $815.00.

A proper cost analysis would need to include the following parts:

Part Average Cost
Adapter/Collar $36.00
Triple Wall Extension piece $462.00
Roof bracket $48.00
Chimney Tee $162.00
Tax $40.00
Installation $100.00
Total $848.00

Result of this Regulation? This high cost of compliance with the ordinance will force citizens to ignore the Regulation, shut off their OWBs and burn fossil fuels, or bear this high burdensome cost to become compliant with the Regulation.

The Proposal Will Severely Damage the Economy of the State of New York

3. Burning Wood Saves Money for Businesses and Homeowners
Per Btu, wood is much less expensive than fossil fuels – at current prices, natural gas is three times the cost of wood, propane is five times the cost of wood, and electricity is seven times the cost of wood . Does the NYSDEC really wish to subject the citizens of New York to the high cost such expensive fossil fuels, or the high cost and low output of EPA-approved devices?

The high cost of energy for home heating has financially crippled many homeowners nationwide. The State of New York should be looking for ways to provide its citizens a way to stay warm in their homes, without facing financial disaster.

4. Burning Wood Helps the NY Economy by Saving Jobs
The harvesting and burning of wood is an important economic factor in New York.. It reduces our dependence on foreign energy companies and it supports our local economy. There is no billion dollar wood fuel utility that will profit from wood burning or multinational corporations involved in the wood heat business. Most businesses that supply furnaces are small manufacturers and retailers. Local workers who chop firewood and chimney sweeps who service wood-heating systems get the benefit of local dollars.

Hawken Energy has 13 Authorized Factory Representatives in the State of New York who support their families at least in part by selling and installing Hawken OWB. Many of these Reps have employees working for them as well, all of whom would face the possibility of losing their livelihood should the proposed Regulation be adopted.

Does the NYSDEC really want to eliminate more jobs in the state?

Result of Regulation? New York will lose many jobs to big foreign oil companies.

5. This Regulation Would Harm the NY Economy Because of Its High Cost of Compliance
See Sections 1 above. Note that given the extremely high cost of “EPA-approved” devices, very few units are being sold. One company that sold only EPA-approved devices, Greenwood Technologies, has gone bankrupt and is currently liquidating its assets. Again, these units cost much more – in some cases they are twice the cost of standard OWB – and they typically produce less than half the BTU output. Therefore their excessive cost would overly burden citizens of the State.

The stack height requirement would also overly burden citizens of the State with very high compliance costs. See Section 2 above.

6. This Regulation Would Harm the NY Economy Because It Does Not Consider The Forecasted Future High Cost of Fossil Fuels
What fuel will be used when the world runs out of oil – which is expected to happen within 50 years? The world is running out of fossil fuels. In a few years, the world’s inhabitants will have consumed one-half of the known fossil fuel reserves. Once this happens, fuel prices will skyrocket as fears of “running out” will become more of a reality.

“The volume of the world's petroleum reserves is important because of the fear that the oil will run out. This fear should be expected, because the estimated remaining one trillion barrels of crude oil is only enough to supply the world for about 50 years. This prediction is based on the present world consumption; however, world consumption is expected to increase.”

Within 10 years, experts project the world oil demand will exceed production capacity by 20 million barrels per day. This will result in astronomical fuel prices to level the supply/demand curve. NY homeowners will be forced to find and pursue alternative heating methods; low-cost wood and other biomass fuels will enable NY homeowners to heat their homes without becoming financially crippled, unless your proposed Regulation is adopted.

See footnotes below for more information on the reality of “peak oil ”

Result of Regulation? Such Regulation, if adopted without the foresight of expected future fossil fuel energy costs, will damage the NY economy, as home heating costs rise.

The Proposal Will Expose the NYSDEC and the State To a Potentially Enormous Legal Liability Associated with Deaths and Injuries Resulting from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning and House Fires.

7. Legal Liability
Given the cost of this proposed rulemaking on citizens of our State, many citizens will not be able to afford these high regulatory costs and will be forced to use indoor-fired heating appliances. Such indoor-fired heating appliances are dangerous – such dangers include, among other things, serious injury and even death from carbon monoxide poisoning and house fires.

Outdoor wood boilers take combustion outdoors. Therefore, households and businesses can reduce their insurance costs by using outdoor furnaces since outdoor combustion eliminates many risks of fire damage, and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Result of Regulation? The high cost of compliance with this Regulation will lead businesses and homeowners away from using wood as a fuel in an outdoor appliance. The result will inevitably be deaths and injuries from fires and carbon monoxide poisoning (among others) that will lead to costly litigation against the NYSDEC and the State. Does the NYSDEC or New York State really want to subject our citizens to the risk of death? And does the NYSDEC really want to subject our State to the cost of inevitable lawsuits resulting from such deaths?

The Proposal Will Dramatically Increase the Emissions of Greenhouse Gasses.

8. Wood is A Renewable Fuel
Wood has been safely used as a fuel since the beginning of recorded history – longer than any other fuel. Fossil fuels have only been used for heating since the early 1900s. Prior to this, wood had been the primary fuel for as long as Planet Earth had been inhabited by man.

Wood is a renewable fuel. One of the reasons wood is such a perfect fuel is because it is renewable. This means that it can be “restored and replenished by nature in a period of time that is compatible with our human use”. The heat released from wood is actually stored energy from the sun--released when consumed in a wood burning device. Wood is an abundant resource in this country that is easily sustained. Provided they are cared for and managed properly, our forests can be a perpetual source of fuel, unlike gas, oil, and coal, which are being depleted at a rate that is astonishingly faster than the millions of years it took Nature to make them.

9. Fossil Fuels Produce Excessive Greenhouse Gasses – Wood Does Not
Wood burning is completely safe in terms of “Greenhouse Gasses” - All fuels produce carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas, when they burn. When the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gasses increases, they cause the average global temperature to rise.

Wood differs from the fossil fuels coal, oil and gas, because it is part of the natural carbon/carbon dioxide cycle. As a tree grows, it absorbs carbon dioxide from the air and stores it in the wood as carbon, which makes up about half of the weight of wood. When the wood is burned, carbon dioxide is released back into the atmosphere. No additional carbon is released because the same amount of carbon dioxide would be released if the tree died and were left to rot on the forest floor. The carbon in coal, oil and gas, by contrast, are taken from underground stores, usually from overseas, where they were deposited by Nature, and released into the air without means for equal reabsorption.
When trees are used for energy, a part of the forest's annual growth is diverted from the natural decay and forest fire cycle into our homes to heat them. Firewood is a natural energy product from the forest. Burning wood actually helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions by displacing the use of oil, gas and coal.

The US Government states clearly that wood burning is not harmful to the environment in terms of Greenhouse Gasses: “Under international greenhouse gas accounting methods developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, biogenic carbon is part of the natural carbon balance and it will not add to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide. Reporters may wish to use an emission factor of zero for wood, wood waste, and other biomass fuels in which the carbon is entirely biogenic.”

Result of Regulation? Since this Regulation dramatically increases the cost of using wood as a fuel, fossil fuel use will increase thus increasing the volume of harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

The State Consists of Largely Rural Areas Where OWB Do Not Impact Anyone. Broad Regulation of OWB Throughout the Entire State Would Be Overly Burdensome to Citizens In Most Areas of the State. Therefore, Any Necessary Regulation Should Be Established at the Local Municipal Level in Densely Populated Areas Only.

10. Common Sense
Unfortunately, there is some incorrect information being spread around about wood burning. We are unsure of the exact reason this information is being spread – perhaps the large foreign oil companies are threatened by wood burning, or perhaps people are just afraid of something new and different. When automobiles started to become popular, they were opposed by those who favored horses and buggies. Times change, we adapt to these changes, and we move on – this is progress and it is why we as Americans are so successful.

Those opposed to burning wood make it sound like wood is the worst fuel in the world, and that it is somehow dangerous. After reading some of this misinformation, one feels almost like they should seal up their fireplace and turn up the fuel oil furnace! After quiet reflection, however, one realizes that any argument that burning wood is somehow more harmful than burning fossil fuels is preposterous.

Though the use of any resource has an environmental impact, the use of wood as a fuel is much more in keeping with the natural cycles of ecosystem Earth. The heat produced by burning firewood is actually the warmth of the sun, stored in trees through the process of photosynthesis. When the sun abandons us during the cold dark days of winter, we liberate the sun’s heat through the “reverse photosynthesis” of burning. Like every other cycle in Nature, every process has its opposite.

Wood is a reliable fuel. In the midst of a winter storm when the power goes out or during an energy crisis rolling blackout, homeowners can still heat with wood. It gives both heat and comfort during times of emergency. Wood also gives freedom. Having the ability to burn wood for heat in a home gives more freedom and options for fuel. Many homeowners live away from natural gas pipelines and are forced to purchase much more costly fuels such as propane or fuel oil. Wood fuel allows a homeowner to no longer be dependent on large energy utilities that may or may not be able to supply energy.

In conclusion, the State consists primarily of heavily-wooded, rural areas. It makes no sense to burden the citizens of our entire State with a rule that really only applies to densely populated areas that constitute a tiny portion of the State. Any needed regulation should be left to local municipalities. Accordingly, we recommend that the NYSDEC NOT adopt the proposed, or any regulation of OWB. Such regulations can be easily managed by local municipalities of densely populated areas.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.


Warren W. Walborn
President & CEO

For Information Purposes – Hawken Energy, Inc. is the fourth-largest outdoor wood furnace manufacturer in the United States. Hawken has become known as an industry leader in providing high-quality, low-cost heating solutions for homeowners and businesses, while utilizing renewable energy fuels. All Hawken furnaces are manufactured in America.

Posted by Don Squire - Hawken Energy Outdoor Wood Furnaces
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