The Senate this afternoon debated new rules for wood-burning furnaces before placing the item on the consent calendar for consideration later today.
The proposed rules would require that owners of wood-burning furnaces burn only wood or wood-pellets. Furnaces installed or modified after Oct. 1 must also meet the latest federal Environmental Protection Agency emission standards.
Outdoor wood-fire furnaces are used across the state by farmers and homeowners as hot water heaters and for other reasons. However, some of those furnaces, particularly older ones, have caused air quality issues for neighbors.
Sen. Ed Meyer, D-Guilford and co-chair of the environment committee, said he heard testimony during a public hearing earlier this year that some homeowners use all sorts of items as fuel. “People burn clothes, they burn sneakers, they burn lots of trash,” he said. “They burn anything they’re trying to get rid of and it makes the smoke that much more odious.”
The measure also gives local health directors and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection the power to investigate complaints that wood-burning furnaces are violating state air pollution standards. If the furnaces are found to be in violation, the authorities can shut them down during the period from May 1 and September 30. Air pollution from a wood-fired furnace is worse in summer months.
That provision is a compromise: initially, lawmakers were considering barring the use of wood-burning furnaces during the summer.
Sen. Andrew Roraback, R-Goshen , said the bill is an “entirely responsible way” to address the problems that wood-burning furnaces can cause.
The legislation balances two competing interests, Roraback said: the desire for clean air and “the ability of Connecticut Yankees to use their strong backs…and hard work to heat themselves and their families” without using “expensive and volatile and foreign” sources of fuel.
The bill would also establish a task force to look into other issues related to wood-burning furnaces, such as whether the regulations ought to be temporarily lifted in cases of extreme power loss.
After it receives the official approval of the state Senate, the bill goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.