Senator Yaw Testifies At Hearing on Outdoor Wood-Fired Boilers


(WILLIAMSPORT)  Joining a chorus of people voicing opposition to new regulations proposed by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regarding Outdoor Wood-Fired Boilers (OWB), Sen. Gene Yaw testified that the state should not be too quick to adopt the changes without first taking into account the impact on rural Pennsylvanians.

Members of the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) were in Williamsport today receiving testimony on proposed regulations for Wood-Fire Stove Boilers.  The regulations, first proposed in September and approved “as is” would:

  • Require new wood boilers sold and installed in Pennsylvania to be certified as “Phase 2” units, which emit up to 90% fewer emissions than many existing units. “Phase 2” units are estimated to be about 15 percent more expensive than current models, but use fuel more efficiently.
  • All new units must be installed a minimum 150 feet from the property line and;
  • All new boilers must have a stack height of at least 10 feet, and at least 2 feet above the highest peak of any residence located within 150 feet.

According to staff of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, existing outdoor wood-fired boilers must have a stack height of at least 10 feet, and the stack height must be at least 2 feet above the highest peak of any residence located within 500 feet.

Additionally, the regulation would specify that only approved fuel, including wood, wood pellets, and propane, natural gas or heating oil (for starter purposes) may be used.  DEP is also seeking comment specifically on whether to prohibit the use of these units during the summer months. However, this provision is not currently in the proposed rulemaking.

“I am aware DEP information states that there are 12,000 OWB units in Pennsylvania.  Without question, the popularity of these furnaces in rural areas was increased by the high price of heating oil less than one year ago.  In our area firewood is either cheap or free, if users are willing to cut their own — which many people do,” Yaw said.  “The use of OWBs has a significant economic impact on many residents of the 23rd Senatorial District.  That impact affects not only homeowners, but also renters and sellers of OWBs.  Taking away OWBs takes away the ability of many residents to heat their homes.

“The problems associated with OWB’s arise primarily in an urban setting, not a rural setting where the use of wood as a primary heat source is common,” Yaw added.  “A general statewide regulation of the type proposed does not recognize rural life styles, rural settings, or rural economics.  Local municipalities throughout Pennsylvania have been dealing with OWB issues for years and in a rural setting they are the entities best suited to deal with this issue.”

The regulations are currently open for public comment. Comments must be received by the Environmental Quality Board by January 4, 2010. People have three options for submitting comments:

  • Send written comments to Environmental Quality Board, P.O. Box 8477, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8477 (express mail: Rachel Carson State Office Building, 16th Floor, 400 Market St., Harrisburg, PA 17101-2301). No fax comments will be accepted.
  • Send written comments via e-mail to A subject heading of the proposal and a return name and address must be included in each e-mail. If the sender does not receive acknowledgement that the comments were received within two working days, the sender should resubmit his or her comments.

Contact: Adam Pankake
(717) 787-3280

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