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Controversy Over Winter-long Wood-stove Ban Heating Up

State regulators say banning wood-burning in winter would protect northern Utah’s air from harmful pollution. The battle over that idea is about to heat up, about a year after Governor Gary Herbert announced plans to idle wood stoves in northern Utah for the entire winter.

Regulators will begin taking public comments on the idea January 1.

Dave McNeill, who oversees planning for the Utah Division of Air Quality, says homeowners are getting the same treatment as industry.

“For everything we do, we require best available control technology,” he says. “And for space heating, the best available control technology is natural gas or electric.”

The proposed ban would not apply to some, like wood-oven pizza restaurants and the homeowners with state exemptions to heat with wood. But others would be barred from using heating stoves and fireplaces between November 1 and March 15.

Researchersblame wood-burning for 5 percent of winter smog.

But opponents say a ban won’t work, and this one goes too far.

“I honestly believe there will be such an uproar from the public,” said Randy Toupin, a Salt Lake City hearth wholesaler. “They feel like they are losing a freedom. They are being dictated to, instead of being governed and given options.”

Regulators will take public input through Feb. 9. They’ve also scheduled public hearings in the seven affected counties.

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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