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Health, Science & Environment

New Wood-Burning Curbs Considered for Business

Erik Crosman
University of Utah
A wintertime inversion or \"cold-air pool\" traps air pollution over the Salt Lake Valley

Burning wood in fireplaces and stoves has been forbidden for years whenever air quality gets bad in parts of northern Utah.

Now the Division of Air Quality is considering similar regulations for businesses.

The idea first came up when regulators were brainstorming in a public workshop last winter: Why not make commercial and industrial facilities comply with the same no-burn standards that homeowners do?

Air quality regulators held another workshop on Monday to share their rough draft of how that could be done.

“We have very good comments from this stakeholder meeting,” said Joel Karmazyn, who works on the state’s master plan for controlling PM 2.5 pollution in seven counties that are prone to winter smog. They are “very good suggestions that we are going to look at modifying the proposal.”

Karmazyn says the proposed regulation is based on the idea that fireplaces in restaurants, stoves in wood shops and other non-food businesses might be contributing significantly to winter pollution.

Preliminary research suggests that smoke can be blamed for more than 5 percent of the problem during high-pollution episodes. But, before the Utah Air Quality Board decides whether added restrictions are in order, there’s still more work that needs to be done.

“There’s not really a baseline,” says, Megan Neiderhiser a manager of air sciences for Environ International Corp.

“So, how can we say, what are the benefits, what are the costs, what are the impacts if there is no actual current inventory and if we aren’t necessarily identifying all of the sources.”

Jim Nielsen is a Republican representative from Bountiful who sponsored a wood-burning bill in the last legislative session.

“I’m just glad to see the state is continuing to look for what we all call low-hanging fruit – the small things, relatively painless things that we can do that make the most difference,” he says. “We have to look for those kinds of things in every aspect of our air-quality inventory.”

Nielson wants regulators to make sure affected businesses, lawmakers and the public are well informed about any new burning restrictions.

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