Rod Tinnemore became an Environmental Planner at the Department of Ecology in 2008, years after the state was pummeled by industry for the audacious move of requiring all heaters to meet a standard of 4.5 grams of particulate per hour. Rod became the guy who enforced that decision, and it was one he was happy to enforce, because he felt stoves could and should be required to burn cleaner than the federal standard of 7.5 grams an hour.
Washington State also required that all stoves sold and installed in the state be EPA certified. To enforce this, Rod regularly emailed residents residents trying to sell old, uncertified stoves on Craigslist. “Most people didn’t know the regulations and were happy to discard the stove instead, but some just sold it another way. Periodically, we found big box stores selling new, uncertified stoves and had to send them overnight certified letters as well,” Rod recalled.
Rod’s retirement leaves a vacuum among the regulator community, as there are very few non-federal stove regulators who have the depth of experience and expertise that Rod had. He influenced policies in change out programs in Washington State and beyond and was one of the most influential state regulators in the EPA’s process to develop the New Source Performance Standards (NSPSP).
“Rod was able to build bridges between different factions and he was a diplomat – but he also knew when to take a stand,” said Lisa Rector, a Senior Policy Analyst at the Northeast States for Coordinated Air use Management (NESCAUM).
Many key figures in the wood stove industry thought highly of Rod, in part because he was accessible, responsive and practical. “Rod had a healthy appetite for knowledge and was a great listener with no preconceived bias. He was always asking great questions so as expand his knowledge base,” said Chris Neufeld, a vice president at Blaze King and Co-chair of the solid fuel section of the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA).
Some in industry butted heads with Rod because Washington State regulations prevented almost all outdoor and indoor wood boilers from being sold and installed in Washington. But even companies representing those appliances often said that they he dealt with them fairly.
At least once, in 2013 when HPBA did not like an initiative Rod was spearheading, they had a lobbyist go to the legislature to send a message that Rod’s department’s funding could be in jeopardy if he pursued the initiative. Rod ultimately had to back off, ending his exploratory work to start a consumer green label for wood stoves.
Rod was also considered one of the insiders of a small group of regulators in the United States who really knew what he was talking about. Rachel Sakata, who did similar work for the State of Oregon as an Air Quality Planner, said that she continually relied on Rod’s expertise. “Rod also was a champion for pushing for cleaner devices and thanks in part to him, we now have stricter regulations for wood heating devices that help protect the public,” said Ms. Sakata. “And he continued to push for developing testing protocols that mimic real world conditions,” she said.
The Alliance for Green Heat also worked closely with Rod, recruiting him to serve as a convener and a judge for our Wood Stove Design Challenge events in 2013 and 2014. He also served on a committee that we pulled together to integrate stoves into energy audits, leading to BPI adopting them in 2015. The Alliance was also one of the stakeholders urging Rod to develop a consumer green label for stoves.
After Rod left office, the Alliance for Green Heat interviewed him, in between various trips and activities, for this blog.
Q. What do you consider one of your successes?
A. Working on and helping to fund a new cordwood test protocol that someday could become a Federal Reference Method (pdf) or possibly a state sanctioned cordwood protocol. We focused on testing various tree species to see which ones produced more PM, but most importantly we tried to get a protocol that resembled how homeowners start and use their stoves – which Method 28 did not. This initiative is now being managed by NESCAUM using Mark Champion’s lab in Vermont and I am very pleased with how it’s progressing.
Q. What was something that you did not succeed at?
A. Not being able to continue working on a consumer green label for wood stoves. This country needed a label to recognize high performing stoves and we still don’t have one that is robust and well recognized.
Q. Who were your closest colleagues?
A. Decades ago, West Coast regulators led the efforts to reduce wood smoke, but more recently, its shifted to the East Coast. California is very progressive but not influential on wood smoke issues because it is so fragmented into so many air districts. Other than Oregon, it was more fruitful for me to work with NESCAUM, NYSERDA, Brookhaven National Lab and the Wood Stove Design Challenge events.
Q. What was the best advice your boss ever gave you?
A. He told me early on that my job could be whatever I made of it.
Q. What was best guidance from your department?
A. The Department of Ecology had a policy of returning phone calls within 24 hours and emails within 48 hours. I thought that was good policy and I tried to live up to it every day.