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House Advances Bill to Reduce Wood-stove Pollution

inversion over salt lake valley.
KUER News
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  A bill to reduce wood-stove soot in Utah’s high-pollution areas is headed to the Senate after receiving House approval Thursday. The bill would help fund programs to help people who rely on woodstoves alone to convert to cleaner home-heating alternatives.

Research from the University of Utah shows that smoke from woodstoves turns into clouds of fine soot particles on northern Utah’s smoggy winter days. The pollution triggers asthma and heart attacks. It also smudges the whole state’s image for tourists and business prospects. Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Holladay, has worked on finding effective pollution strategies as part of a legislative task force on economic development.

“The conclusion of that task force is that poor air quality is a threat to the state’s economic development and continued growth,” she said on the House floor. “It adversely affects corporate relocation efforts, employee retention and recruitment, public health, plus it places additional regulatory burdens on businesses, increases health care costs and places Utah federal funding for highways at risk.  Accordingly, improving air quality should be a priority for state government.”

Arent’s bill, HB154, would help people learn about the harm that burning wood causes during high-pollution periods. It also would help 200 households in northern Utah transition to cleaner fuels if they have no other heat source besides wood. Some lawmakers say some of their constituents are wary about any limits on wood stoves. But Arent says the programs are strictly optional, and they don’t apply in rural areas.

“No one forcing anyone to do anything with this bill,” she said. “And certainly for the homes that we’ve just heard about there will be no impact whatsoever.”

The bill originally asked for more than 2 million dollars. But lawmakers stripped out more  than $200,000 in funding that would have helped the Division of Air Quality enforce wood-burning limits on red burn days in high-pollution areas.

The bill passed the House 43 to 28.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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