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Legislatively Speaking
Outdoor furnaces a hot issue

By Alma Graham, Legislative Director

  FEBRUARY 2, 2011 --

The new Governor and all of the Legislators took their oath of office in early January.  The Legislators have submitted their bills and the different committees are busy working on the proposed bills and holding public hearings.  The beginning of February the Governor will present his budget to the General Assembly.  Connecticut, like most other states, is experiencing a budget crisis.  We will be watching to see what Governor Malloy proposes for any new taxes or budget cuts.

One of the proposals that has already been presented is the banning of the outdoor wood burning furnaces.  At the last Connecticut State Grange convention the delegates voted to oppose the banning of these furnaces.  It was felt that existing regulations were adequate.  The proposed bill last year would have banned their use from April 15th until October 15th.  The bill died in the General Assembly’s Environment Committee and never reached the floor. The present chairman of the Environment Committee, Senator Edward Meyer, D-Guilford, is submitting a bill to ban all outdoor furnaces except for use on farms and in farmhouses.  He states as his reason that the furnaces do not have good air quality.  This ban would not apply to outdoor fire pits, wood-fired barbecues or ‘chimineas’.

Presently there are at least 14 towns in Connecticut which have already banned these furnaces within their towns.  It has been noted that wood smoke contains some elements that cause cancer.  Some smoke soot particles are small enough to enter a person’s lungs and can lead to serious respiratory problems.

Outdoor wood furnaces are not regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) but the EPA is working with manufacturers on a voluntary program to produce cleaner wood burning furnaces.  Connecticut regulations state that these furnaces: 1. Must be installed at least 200 feet from the nearest neighboring home, 2. Have a chimney shorter than 55 feet but at least as tall as neighboring roof peaks within 500 feet of the furnace, 3. Must burn only wood that had not been chemically treated, and 4. Are installed and operated according to manufacturers guidelines.  Another regulation for the wood burning furnaces is through smoke opacity (density).  Connecticut’s opacity limit is an average of 20% during six consecutive minutes or 40% average for one minute.

Another project that the Legislature is in the midst of, is the redistricting of all the Legislative districts.  Every ten years, after the Census has been completed, its data is reviewed and political boundaries are redrawn.  The last time this happened Connecticut had lost enough population that we lost one federal congressional seat.  This should not happen this time.  However, local legislative districts will be reviewed and adjusted according to population changes.  The Senate president pro-tem, the speaker of the House and the majority party of both assembly chambers each appoint two members to the Reapportionment Committee.  This committee will draw up redistricting plans for both the state House and Senate as well as Congressional seats.   Their plan is presented to the General Assembly and it must be approved by two thirds of the members of both chambers before Sept. 15th.  If this is not completed by then, the Governor will appoint an eight person committee which will then appoint a 9th member.  They will draw the boundaries and present them to the Secretary of the State by Nov. 30.

As you can imagine there is a lot of political wrangling going on within this committee to keep the districts that they hold as Democratic or Republican territories.


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