Albany, NY, Dec 20, 2010 — State environmental officials are softening their stance on a controversial plan to regulate outdoor wood boilers. The Department of Environmental Conservation is setting aside rules on existing boilers. Spokeswoman Lori Severino says the DEC will hold more stakeholder meetings with manufacturers, homeowners, environmental and agricultural groups on how to regulate furnaces people have already bought. She says the agency has not decided whether it will hold a new round of public hearings. Severino says the DEC received thousands of comments at hearings last summer, many in protest.
"Because of the amount of feedback that we got we limited the proposal," Severino says. "It addresses one portion of it, and then we're going to move forward on establishing some guidelines at this point."
Severino says the DEC will move ahead on regulating new boilers. She says new rules would make the furnaces burn 90% cleaner, use cleaner fuel, and require an 18 foot stack height. The rules also include leeway for farmers.
"There is a one thousand setback requirement from neighboring properties," says Severino, "but that does not apply to agricultural operations. So instead they would have a one hundred foot setback from neighboring homes, but not property lines so it gives farms a bit more flexibility."
The proposed rules on new outdoor wood boilers will come before the state Environmental Review Board this week.
The DEC's shift hasn't appeased the state's largest farm lobbying organization. In a press release, the New York Farm Bureau called it "a ploy". Farm Bureau president Dean Norton accused "radical elements" of the DEC of "shoving these regulations through" at the end of Governor David Paterson's term.
The Farm Bureau says the rules would make the furnaces too costly and restrict their use in the summertime, when some people use them to heat water.
North Country lawmakers are wary, too. Assemblywoman Addei Russell and Senator-elect Patty Ritchie both told the Watertown Daily Times they think the DEC is moving too fast.