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Bill to require home sellers to destroy old wood stoves goes up in smoke

Monitor staff
Published: 2/13/2019 4:57:49 PM

New Hampshire has been trying for years to make people get rid of old wood stoves that contribute a disproportionate amount to air pollution, but a bill that would have forced the issue, requiring pre-1986 stoves to be destroyed when the house is sold, seems to have gone too far.

The House Energy Committee narrowly recommended Wednesday that the bill, HB 290, be killed, citing uncertainty about how it would be implemented.

“Are we going to have stove inspectors?” asked Michel Harrington, R-Strafford. “Is the fire department going to have to get a certified stove inspector?”

The committee voted 10-9 to mark the bill as “inexpedient to legislate,” meaning they recommend that the full House reject it.

The bill, sponsored by Democrat Peter Schmidt of Dover, would have required wood stoves built before 1986 to be destroyed when the house they are in is sold, as long as the home is located in an area “designated as densely populated” by the Department of Environmental Services. It would not apply to stoves that are the homes’ sole heating source, or fancy antique stoves “built before 1940 that has an ornate construction and a current market value substantially higher than a common wood stove.”

In the year 1986, the EPA first instituted limits on the amount of soot and other pollutants that wood stoves could emit. Stoves older than that often have no emission controls at all and because they can last for many decades, they have been a target for pollution control in New Hampshire.

Of particular concern is the Keene area, where geography tends to corral stoves’ smoke during certain weather patterns known as inversions, prompting a comparatively high number of air-pollution-alert days in that part of Cheshire County. In 2009 and 2010, the state instituted a buyback program around Keene, providing incentives of as much as $3,000 for people to get rid of old stoves, but it only garnered about 200 old stoves.

One problem with the bill cited by several committee members is that it’s not always easy to know when a stove was built, because they rarely carry date-of-manufacture stamps. That would presumably require inspection to determine if they had post-1986 pollution controls.

The bill would require that the old, polluting stoves be removed and destroyed by the seller of homes, unless the buyer agrees to take it on.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)

David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog, as well as moderator of the monthly Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.

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