For the first time in three years of trying, legislation to tighten regulations on outdoor wood furnaces has passed a chamber of the legislature. The Senate passed and sent to the House an amended version of legislation that advocates of it say is even stronger than the original.

The original bill sought to ban outdoor wood furnace use during the summer. The approved version provides a mechanism to ban individual furnace use from May through September if a written complaint is filed with a local health department about a particular furnace.

It also prohibits the sale of older, more polluting furnaces after Oct. 1, 2012. It allows only the burning of clean wood or wood pellets. And it sets up a working group comprised of the commissioners of Public Health, Energy and Environmental Protection, and Agriculture to explore other ways to limit pollution from wood-burning furnaces and other means of regulating them.

“We are pleased,” said Nancy Alderman, a longtime opponent of the furnaces through her group Environment and Human Health Inc. “It sets up a study group which says these things are a problem.”

Outdoor wood furnaces have become popular in recent years among people in parts of the state where there are no gas mains, leaving expensive oil heat their only alternative for heating. Furnace opponents have long sought a ban because of the particulates wood smoke can produce.

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Jan Ellen is CT Mirror's regular freelance Environment and Energy Reporter. As a freelance reporter, her stories have also appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Yale Climate Connections, and elsewhere. She is a former editor at The Hartford Courant, where she handled national politics including coverage of the controversial 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. She was an editor at the Gazette in Colorado Springs and spent more than 20 years as a TV and radio producer at CBS News and CNN in New York and in the Boston broadcast market. In 2013 she was the recipient of a Knight Journalism Fellowship at MIT on energy and climate. She graduated from the University of Michigan and attended Boston University’s graduate film program.

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