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House of Representatives
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: December 18, 2014 12:37 PM
From: Representative Tim Briggs
To: All House members
Subject: Prohibiting the use of Urban Outdoor Wood-fired Boilers
In the near future, I will be introducing legislation that would amend the Air Pollution Control Act (Act 787 of 1959) to define and limit the usage of urban outdoor wood-fired boilers and provide for a testing standard to measure emissions from these devices.

As you may know, outdoor wood-fired boilers (OWB) are combustion units that are typically located outside, away from the residential or commercial building utilizing the energy source. A water jacket surrounds the firebox of these units and transfers the heat from the combustion process to the water. The heated water is then transmitted through pipes to a building where it can be used to heat the interior of these facilities, provide domestic hot water, or heat swimming pools and hot tubs.

While OWBs may reduce energy costs for their owners, this savings is frequently achieved at the expense of local air quality. Since many OWBs are equipped with short “stacks” or vent pipes, smoke from these units disperses poorly and often lingers close to the ground. The dense smoke produced from combustion process contains particulate matter, which can affect not only the ability of nearby property owners to enjoy the outdoors during mild weather, but also the health and well-being of these individuals throughout the year. Numerous scientific numerous studies link particulate matter to increased hospital admissions and emergency room visits -- and even to early death.

While certain portions of the Commonwealth, such as rural areas and farms, may be conducive to the use of OWBs, use of these devices in other areas can be problematic. As such, the legislation that I will be introducing would create a new definition of an urban outdoor wood-fired boiler (UOWB) as any OWB located in a city, borough or township with a population density of 1,500 or more persons per square mile.

Furthermore, my legislation would prohibit the operation of UOWBs from May 1st through September 20th. In addition, the measure would prohibit the operation of an UOWB, that produces visible emissions, measured as any opacity totaling twelve minutes in any hour, that cross onto any land or buildings immediately adjacent to a dwelling or commercial building not owned by the owner of the UOWB in these areas. Opacity shall be determined pursuant to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Method 9 (Visual Determination of the Opacity of Emissions from Stationary Sources).

Although I understand the need to control heating and energy costs, I also recognize that this savings cannot be wrought at the expense of our environment and the well-being of nearby property owners in densely populated areas.

I hope you will join me in sponsoring this legislation to more effectively manage the operation and emissions from these devices.

Introduced as HB411