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CT Farming leaders to testify against furnace proposal

By James Mosher (Norwich Bulletin 3-4-10)

  MARCH 7, 2010 --

Connecticut farming leaders, including the head of a New London County group, will testify Monday against a bill that would prohibit use of outdoor wood-burning furnaces for half the year.

The Connecticut Farm Bureau Association, based in Windsor, officially opposes Senate Bill 126 and its representatives will speak against the measure at a public hearing in Hartford, Executive Director Steven Reviczky said Tuesday. Wayne Budney, president of the group's New London County Farm Bureau affiliate, said he plans to testify.

"There's something going on and we need to speak out about it," said Budney, who owns Four Winds Farm in Lebanon. "You see, government can really move when it wants to."

Reviczky, an Ashford native, said the state association has long been on record supporting wood burning and its environmental record. The bill's provision to add wood smoke to the public health nuisance code also is opposed by the group.

"We plan to restate our positions clearly at the hearing," Reviczky said.

The bill would prohibit use of the furnaces between April 15 and Oct. 15, leaving the autumn and winter months when heating is needed most.

Complete ban

Some, including Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who is running for the U.S. Senate, have called for a complete ban on the furnaces because of an increasing number of health complaints. Farmers and furnace sellers counter that the complaints stem from a small number of owners misusing the appliances. The bill only covers outdoor furnaces. Indoor wood stoves are not included.

Blumenthal softened his stance after Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington, who is vice chairman of the General Assembly's Environment Committee, pledged to work for stricter regulations short of an outright ban.

Maynard, whose district includes Griswold, Plainfield, Preston, Sterling, and Voluntown, reiterated his position against a ban. He also continues to support "reasonable accommodations for human health."

"A ban is very unlikely," he said Tuesday.

Room for improvement

Maynard said he doesn't support the bill in its existing form, but amendments could make hi mchange his view.

"There's a lot of room for improvement," he said.

The day after the public hearing the state farm bureau board of directors will meet in Windsor.

Budney, a member of the 12-person board, is pushing for the state bureau and its eight county affiliates to make an even stronger statement against Bill 126 and other attempts to ban outdoor furnaces.

He and others in the New London bureau, which has 691 members, say efforts are being made to fast track Bill 126 and farmers must defend the general public against economic hardship that would result from the bill's enactment. The bill contains an exemption for farmers, but the farmers are fighting it anyway.

The Windham County Farm Bureau, which has 499 members, also is concerned about the bill's possible negative effects, but didn't vote to oppose the measure, as the New London County bureau did.



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