The campaign for Gov. Paul LePage on Tuesday attempted to link Democratic challenger U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud to new pollution rules by the Environmental Protection Agency that critics say will make it more expensive for homeowners to purchase newer, cleaner burning wood stoves. Opponents of the regulations also argue that wood stove manufacturers would have to spend more money to re-engineer clean-burning stoves that are already available.

Supporters of the regulations say new emission rules are long overdue, particularly as it relates to outdoor wood boilers. Seven states, including Massachusetts and Connecticut, but not Maine, have filed a notice to sue the EPA for failing to revise its outdated air pollution standards for residential wood heat (Colleague Tux Turkel has a nice overview of the rules and the impacts here.). 

Some have speculated that that the rules could become political wedge issue, particularly in Maine which is particularly reliant on wood for heat. According to the U.S. Census, 14 percent of Maine homes use wood as a primary source of heat, while another 50 percent of Maine homes it as a backup heat source. 

The LePage administration’s Department of Environmental Protection testified against the new rules during a hearing held in Boston last week. DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho said the rules would restrict consumer choice while hurting the state’s leading stove manufacturer, Jotul North America.

The LePage campaign weighed in Tuesday on its Facebook page, saying Michaud’s "political commander," President Obama, has "proposed draconian new regulations that would drive the cost of heating Maine homes with wood out of sight!"

The campaign attempted to pair the regulations with Michaud’s recent vote supporting the farm bill, which included a two-tenths of 1 cent fee on heating oil (The law prohibits companies from passing the fee on to consumers, but if they did, it would result in an annual oil bill increase of a $1.80 in a home that burns 900 gallons a year.).

So where does Michaud stand on the new wood stove regulations? Here’s what his spokeswoman, Lizzy Reinholt said:

"It’s no surprise that Gov. LePage and the Republicans are outright opposed to stricter environmental standards that will keep our air and water cleaner. While Gov. LePage is trying to politicize this issue, Congressman Michaud is working to ensure the EPA and wood stove manufacturers work together to find the best approach to move forward so we can make stoves as efficient and affordable as possible while protecting our environment and public health."

Reinholt’s comment refers to Michaud’s early statements on the issue. Last year the congressman said there should be updated air pollution standards, but they shouldn’t burden manufacturers or make wood stoves unaffordable. He doesn’t get to vote on the regulations, but members of the state’s congressional delegation can use their office to attempt to influence the EPA’s regulations.

Independent candidate Eliot Cutler said that the state should be "helping EPA get it right instead of watching them get it wrong." He also noted that the emission standards were important, but he cautioned against making the regulations so prohibitive that Mainers can’t afford to buy newer stoves.

His plan: 

"If I were governor, I would convene federal EPA and Maine DEP officials, Jotul and other manufacturer representatives and public stakeholders like the American Lung Association, the Conservation Law Foundation and others. I would invoke the principles behind EPA’s bubble concept and environmental regulatory mediation and challenge them to collaborate in devising a plan — specifically designed for Maine — that would (i) set a target for substantial reductions in total wood stove emissions by 2020, (ii) provide incentives and financial assistance for upgrading stoves and installing shelters for unseasoned wood, and (iii) establish reasonably achievable emissions limits and timetables for new stoves."