Audit questions EPA emissions program used through Adirondack Park

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Fall foliage changes colors near Three Brothers Mountain in Adirondack Park in Keene Valley, N.Y. in October 2016. (AP / Tom Curley)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The Adirondack Council this week praised an audit aimed at a program designed to make sure wood-based heating devices such as woodstoves in the state are up to a certain level of efficiency and quality.

The audit, from Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM), looks at 255 residential wood heating units certified by the EPA as cleaner-burning alternatives to older models, and reports a lack of proof that any of those units are actually cleaner in how they burn.

 “The NESCAUM audit of the EPA’s residential wood heat program is a stunning revelation that we hope will have EPA working overtime to fix the problem NESCAUM has exposed,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway.  “We all knew that replacing inefficient wood heating with new units would cost some money, but no one wants that money to be wasted.”

Wood heat is a popular option in the Adirondack Park, and Janeway pointed out that despite the remote nature of most Adirondack communities, poor air quality can be a real problem in community centers, especially during winter.

The heat units in question are all part of a list put out by the EPA in 2015, after adopting new emissions standards that called for cleaner-burning units to be used.

The audit took place after air quality readings in areas where new heating units were adopted didn’t see the improvements expected.

The audit takes issue with the testing methods used by the EPA in some cases, where testing was outsourced to third-party labs. It also found that the EPA only required air quality to be tested while units were at full heat, which limits data.

The problem is ecological, but also economic.

“We don’t want to see subsidies or rebates wasted on units that don’t clean the air,” Janeway said. “That would be an awful waste of money and would harm public faith in the overall effort.”

 NESCAUM is an organization of clean air regulators operating in eight different states, with the mission of improving and protecting air quality.

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