WHAT OTHERS SAY: Federal, state interests collide over wood stoves

Friday, February 28, 2014 | 1:20 p.m. CST

A proposed federal regulation has reignited fundamental political and philosophical confrontations.

Specifically, a proposed rule from the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would restrict emissions from new residential wood stoves and heaters.

More generally, it raises the question of whether the rule is a governmental intrusion into personal lifestyles or an appropriate method to improve public health.

And, if government has a legitimate interest in wood smoke, is this a matter for federal, state or local government oversight?

This question recently has emerged regarding other issues and has prompted states to consider so-called “nullification” proposals to exempt states from federal laws.

A Missouri House committee already has responded to the EPA proposal with an initiative that would prohibit state environmental officials from regulating wood heaters unless authorized by state lawmakers.

Perhaps the most highly publicized of these efforts in Missouri is a bill that not only would nullify federal attempts to restrict gun laws,but also it would criminalize federal efforts to enforce those provisions. In addition, Missouri is seeking state constitutional protections for rights to farm, hunt and fish.

These activities all are part of our shared heritage. Before the advent of utility companies and supermarkets, our ancestors hunted, fished and farmed to feed their families, and cooked and heated their homes with wood.

People tend to be justifiably wary of changes imposed by government, particularly legislation and restrictions that reach deeper into family traditions and values.

This wariness arises because change is coming rapidly in this day and age, spurred not only by technology, but by differing values — between federal and state governments or among state governments — regarding same-sex marriage, legalization of marijuana, capital punishment and other matters.

Are we making too much of proposed wood stove regulations?

Perhaps, so let’s reverse the telescope and narrow the focus from the big picture to the specific issue.

Reducing particle pollution in the air is a laudable goal, but more effective, less onerous methods are available.

Slapping new federal restrictions on burning wood is counter-productive; it invites backlash and nullification attempts that incite added confrontation and confusion between state and federal authority.

Copyright Jefferson City News Tribune. Reprinted with permission.

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