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Governor Weighs Veto of Legislation Aimed at Blocking Wood-Burning Bans

Stephen Butler
Flickr Creative Commons
The fight over winter wood-burning continues as Gov. Gary Herbert considers vetoing HB396, a prohibition on a seasonal ban of solid fuel burning devices.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert is scanning hundreds of recently passed bills in search of any that might deserve a veto. One that’s caught his eye would prohibit a wintertime wood-burning ban.

House Bill 396 concerns the governor because it potentially restricts the policy-setting Air Quality Board from implementing the best pollution solutions it finds.

Herbert said Thursday that lawmakers might have overstepped their authority by limiting the Air Quality Board’s options.

“To say that they [at the air quality board] cannot, in fact, put in place parameters and rules and regulations about wood burn is probably a little shortsighted,” he told reporters at his monthly KUED news conference. “So, I’m going to take a really hard look at that.”

The Air Quality Board held seven public hearings to explore an idea set out by the governor: eliminating wood smoke in populated areas during the high-pollution season to the air significantly cleaner. It’s a proposal based on a University of Utah study that found wood smoke accounts for about 5 percent of winter pollution episodes. After hundreds of people at the hearings objected, air-quality officials scrapped the seasonal ban.

“We would like to see the governor sign this bill,” said John Mortensen, a stove dealer who also leads a group called Utahns for Responsible Burning. “We believe it fits with what he is looking for. It calls out to study and look for the best possible plan.”

Mortensen’s group led the effort to kill the ban proposal and pushed for the legislation. Meanwhile, health and clean-air groups have asked Herbert to veto the bill.

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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