|The Office of Management and Budget
is in the Old Executive Office Building
next the White House.
Sources confirmed that the EPA is set to announce the new wood heater rules on Tuesday, February 3rd, the court ordered date. After years of debate and anticipation about cost impacts and emission standards for stoves and outdoor boilers, the issue that has become the most contested on the eve of the announcement is warm air furnaces.
The Office of Management & Budget (OMB) cleared the rule on Feb. 1 “with changes” setting the stage for it to be signed by Administrator McCarthy and publicly released. (Rules often take 2 – 4 weeks to appear in the Federal Register after they are publicly released by an agency.)
Even though the big decisions were all supposed to be made last fall, there has been intensive lobbying by stakeholders right up until Friday afternoon, January 30th – one business day ahead of the expected announcement. At least 2 groups met with the Obama Administration through the Office of Management & Budget on Friday, January 30th. During January, interest groups had at least six other meetings with OMB, lobbying for last minute changes to the proposed rule.
The patterns, attendees and paperwork left behind at OMB meetings this month offer a unique glimpse into some of the most contested areas of the rule. Thanks to sunshine laws that make records of meetings with government agencies public, the public can see a list of who met with the OMB in the weeks leading up to the announcement of the rule.
The short term fate of warm air furnaces (WAF) appears to be the top priority of the hearth industry because they represent the only product category where most existing models cannot be made or sold for a period of time after the rule becomes law and before they become certified. HPBA participated in two meetings in January along with their legal counsel and consultant, Jack Ferguson, and various of their member companies, including US Stove, Central Boiler, Hardy, Heatmor and Hawken Energy.
Jack Goldman, CEO of the Hearth Patio & Barbecue Association, said in a letter to EPA that this is “clearly a death sentence” to most of the companies making warm air furnaces. The EPA says that they do not have the legal authority under the Clean Air Act to delay implementation of emissions standards. Warm air furnaces are the only class of wood heaters that will be required to meet emission standards, but are still unregulated and have little ability to be tested and certified until the rule is announced. US Stove Co may be the leading manufacturer of warm air furnaces in the U.S. and they often sell for less than $ 2,000 – less than most wood stoves.
Another hot topic that emerged in recent months is a dispute over the opposite end of the spectrum from unregulated hot air furnaces – high performance indoor boilers, often made in Europe, but now being made in the US. The EPA certified test labs refuse to use a test method for these appliances developed by DOE’s Brookhaven National Lab and funded by NYSERDA, which captures some start-up emissions and uses cord wood instead of cribs. This is emblematic of a long simmering rift between test methods for outdoor wood boilers and European style indoor boilers with thermal storage, which offer the potential for cleaner combustion. NYSERDA and Econoburn, a NY manufacturer who makes these furnaces ask, “Who should really benefit? Those who innovate or those who refuse to?”
Other meetings in January with OMB and key stakeholders include one with about a dozen air quality agencies and states; with representatives of the Pellet Fuels Institute and a pellet testing facility; and with Intertek Test labs. Attendees in meeting between OMB and indoor and outdoor boilers and furnace manufacturers, and with NYSERDA and New York manufacturers are also in the public record.
If participants of the meetings provided OMB with documents, those documents are also public. Three key documents were provided this month, two from HPBA on a their legal argument (PDF) to delay compliance for hot air furnaces and a survey (PDF) commissioned by HPBA of HPBA member retailers on sell through trends. Four of the groups that met with OMB did not leave materials and there is as of now no record of the topics raised at those meeting. The only other document from the final month of intensive lobbying was from NYSERDA, NESCAUM and New York based companies (powerpoint).