Included in Senate Bill 734 (The Regulatory Reform Act of 2014) is a provision that specifically prohibits both the state Environmental Management Commission (EMC) and local city and county governments from regulating wood-burning fireplaces in private homes.
State law also provides for the establishment of local air pollution control programs run by city and county governments, which are supervised by the EMC. These programs are concerned with general outdoor air pollution and the industries and activities that contribute to poor air quality.
But legislators want to make sure that these pollution control programs are not within the regulatory reach of your home and hearth. Prohibited from local regulatory control will be “any combustion heater, appliance, or fireplace in private dwellings that burns combustion fuels, including, but not limited to, natural or liquefied petroleum gas, fuel oil, kerosene, wood, or coal, for heating, cooking, drying, or decorative purposes.”
The EMC is part of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and oversees and adopts rules for several DENR divisions, including the Divisions of Air Quality, Land Resources, Water Quality and Water Resources. For 40 years, the Commission has been responsible for developing and implementing regulations to protect clean air and clean water in North Carolina.
During floor debate on the bill, Representative Ruth Samuelson of Mecklenburg County explained: “If you own a fireplace and you want to burn in your fireplace, right now, local governments may or may not make rules about that. In San Francisco, they made a rule that you had to get an air quality permit if you wanted to burn in your fireplace. So, what the Senate added was the clarification that local governments cannot say you can’t burn certain things in your fireplace because of air quality issues. You don’t have to get an air quality permit to use your fireplace.”
So, this Christmas, your stockings can be hung by the chimney with care — knowing that state bureaucrats soon will not be there.