In a May 11 letter, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, asked Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler to respond to press reports that the EPA is planning to reverse its recent decision to prohibit the sale of older and dirtier wood stove models, which would lead to more harmful air pollution in the midst of a deadly respiratory pandemic.

More than 11 million households across the country rely on residential wood heaters that are inefficient and lack the proper emission control technology. Collectively, older and dirtier wood heaters are a major source of harmful air pollution, producing a deadly mix of particulate matter, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and air toxics that amass inside and outside the home.

“This pollution can trigger asthma attacks and is linked to lung damage, cancer and other significant health problems, including death,” wrote Carper. “Nationwide, residential wood heaters emit five times more PM pollution than the U.S. petroleum refineries, cement manufacturers and pulp and paper plants combined.”

“According to press reports, EPA is considering using the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to continue to allow retailers to sell residential wood heating systems that fail to meet the latest clean air standards,” said Carper. “I am not insensitive to the unique time in which we are living, but I find it concerning that EPA is considering this action despite the agency’s determination a month ago, during the COVID-19 pandemic, that such extensions were not warranted.”

“If the press reports are true,” Carper added, “EPA appears to have made a 180-degree reversal of its April decision to keep the wood heater Step 2 deadline intact with no apparent justification for doing so. This reversal is made even more mystifying in light of industry testimony before the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee observing that the peak selling time for wood heater retailers is from September to March.”

Carper asked Wheeler to respond to these press reports and shed light on the agency’s decision-making by no later than May 15.

The full text of Carper’s letter is available at bit.ly/2LkdSDy.