The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit agreed to yet another extension to the lawsuit brought by the Hearth Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) and the Pellet Fuel Institute (PFI) against portions of the EPA’s 2015 residential wood heater regulations.
HPBA “hopes to be back in talks with the EPA” said Rachel Feinstein, Government Affairs Manager for HPBA. In the motion requesting the extension, HPBA explained that talks between them and HPBA had broken down under the Obama Administration, but after Trump’s election, HPBA is again “attempting to discuss with DOJ and EPA whether the agencies are willing to engage in further discussions concerning the Rule.”
The Trump Administration has been re-opening rule making on many regulations, but some observers say it will likely be an uphill battle for the hearth industry because the EPA is already contending with many higher profile rules. In addition, even if the EPA were to agree to review parts of the NSPS, the rule would have to go through the notice and comment process that can take 1 to 3 years, at which point there could be a new President and a new head of the EPA.
The EPA can revise regulations at any point, with or without a pending lawsuit. It can commit to a new rule making process on selected parts of the NSPS, but it cannot necessarily guarantee any particular outcome. In cases of voluntary remand, petitioners can also lose their right to appeal.
If the case goes to court in 2018, the outcome partially depends on which panel of judges get appointed to the case and the result could be more unpredictable and potentially more favorable to the groups that intervened in the suit – the American Lung Association, the Clean Air Council and Environment and Human Health. If the case goes to court, the best outcome for HPBA would likely be a settlement agreement that puts part of the NSPS on hold until another rule making is complete.
HPBA and PFI now have until August 25 to file their brief laying out their grievances with the new regulations. HPBA is not challenging the requirement that when tested with cribwood, wood stoves must emit no more than 2 grams an hour as of 2020. This means that all stove manufacturers remain under this deadline to retest their stoves to achieve 2 grams an hour or less under the revised test method. All stoves that tested at 2 or under prior to May 15, 2015 still have to retest to be compliant with the 2020 limits.
HPBA is challenging the requirement that if a stove is voluntarily tested with cordwood, it must achieve 2.5 grams per hour or less. HPBA asserts that since there is not yet an approved test method, it was premature for the EPA to set an emission limit. HPBA is also challenging emission limits for wood and pellet boilers and furnaces.