Senate approves outdoor wood boiler bill
WITH BOX By KIM SMITH DEDAM Staff Writer
RAY BROOK — A law counteracting proposed state regulation of outdoor wood boilers was approved unanimously in the Senate this week.
A similar bill awaits Assembly vote.
The measure allows for continued use of existing outdoor wood furnaces, displacing regulations now under review by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
The Senate measure drew praise from local officials and wood-boiler owners.
WIN FOR RURAL AREAS
Senate bill S8061 "finds that because of the wide variation in climate, topography, community character and socio-economic conditions throughout New York state, any regulation of outdoor wood boilers that is more restrictive than that contained in this act is most appropriately left to local governments."
Co-sponsors Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) and Sen. Darrel Aubertine (D-Cape Vincent) see Senate approval as a win for rural New York.
"The bill would allow for the continued use of outdoor boilers currently in operation, require any new boilers sold in New York be EPA approved and allow for local decision-making with respect to zoning issues, such as setbacks and chimney heights," Aubertine said in a statement after the vote.
WOULD STOP DEC PLAN
Jeff Palmer, legislative director for Aubertine, said that if the bill becomes law, it would more or less prevent DEC regulations from going through.
"We're saying we don't want the phase-out of existing outdoor wood boilers and that the zoning piece belongs to the towns."
DEC spokeswoman Lori Severino said they don't comment on pending legislation, especially since DEC's regulation has not been finalized.
Should the outdoor wood boiler bill become law, that would supercede DEC regulation.
"Then our regulation would have to conform to the state law," Severino said. "Ours is just being proposed right now. When it goes out again for public comment, probably in a couple months, there will have been changes made.
"We're not banning wood boilers. That's been the main misconception at all the public hearings. What we are doing is proposing regulation to ensure that outdoor wood boilers are being properly used and burning as cleanly as possible.
"The overall goal is to be protective of people's public health and the environment."
DEC's proposed rules set stack heights at 18 feet and would require existing furnaces to be replaced in 10 years. It also establishes blanket setbacks and site restrictions for every municipality in the state.
Almost 20 North Country residents had objected to the proposed DEC regulations at a public hearing in Saranac Lake two weeks ago.
Tom Gallagher, who runs a small farm on 70 acres in Malone, has been heating his home and hot water with an outdoor wood furnace for nine years.
He was glad to hear Friday that the Senate legislation passed.
"I have had no objection to some kind of control over wood boilers," Gallagher said. "I just don't support the heavy-handed way this has been brought through DEC. It was not properly conceived — you can't have one-size-fits-all regulation for the entire state. The towns know best what's good for their municipality."
In Lake Placid, resident Norm Bradley installed an outdoor wood boiler six years ago at a cost between $9,000 and $10,000.
Phase-out after 10 years does not seem feasible, he said.
"That is frankly remarkable," Bradley said about the Senate action. "I am overjoyed because (DEC regulation) just doesn't pass the common-sense test.
"The first year my wife, Bobbie, and I had the boiler, we were city people. We put wood in there, sometimes it was wet; but after a while you learn, you use it intelligently, and it can be controlled very easily.
"But this is a local issue. It's not an issue for mid-town Manhattan."
The New York Farm Bureau is continuing to pressure Albany to stop the DEC regulation.
"The problem is the Assembly has to pass the same bill, and the governor would have to sign it," Farm Bureau spokesman Peter Gregg said Friday.
"Until that happens, we're still staring down the barrel of new DEC regulations that would severely impact the heating resources of many rural New Yorkers. DEC is still moving forward with these at least 'proposed' regulations. That train is still going down the tracks. In the meantime, we're going to continue to vigorously lobby to stop the DEC rules from going through."
Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward (R-Willsboro) said the bill is in the Environmental Committee and likely won't be worked on until January.
"I do know from talking to some of the Assembly members that they are trying to work with the Farm Bureau to come up with changes to the regulations that would satisfy their concerns. We understand there needs to be cleaner emissions, but we want them to leave the people alone that already have these devices.
"Further, we want the localities to decide where these go, because every community is different."
E-mail Kim Smith Dedam at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by Don Squire - Hawken Energy Outdoor Wood Furnaces