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Wood Burning Fireplaces Could Be Outlawed

Air quality plan could nix them in new homes

Southland air quality officials has adopted a far-reaching clean air plan that proposes emission controls on everything from ships to trucks to residential fireplaces so that in an effort to clean the air in Southern California.

 “This plan addresses new federal health standards with a very aggressive and fast-tracked pollution control program,” said Barry Wallerstein, executive officer of the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD).  “We must aim high to tackle one of the most serious public health threats in our region.”

The plan lays out a detailed strategy for meeting the federal health-based standards for fine particulates by 2015 and 8-hour ozone by 2024 while accounting for and accommodating future expected growth.

The fireplace standards will change if the plan goes all the way through. This would ban wood burning fireplaces in all new homes. Gas burning fireplaces would be the most likely replacement.
According to the AQMD, wood burning fireplaces release particulates into the air that are apparently causing damage to people’s health.

The AQMD says that the region must meet these air quality standards to reduce deaths and illnesses from air pollution.  Unhealthful levels of  particulates alone are responsible for up to 5,400 premature deaths and 2,400 hospitalizations each year in Southern California, according to the state Air Resources Board.

They also point out that the overall benefits of the plan exceed its cost by a factor of more than 6 to 1.  The plan is forecast to cost $2.3 billion annually while its benefits, principally from reduced health effects, will be $14.6 billion annually.

In spite of future growth, emissions of most pollutants are forecast to decline during the next 16 years as a result of regulations already in place.  Meeting the particulate and 8-hour ozone standards, however, will require significant further reductions above and beyond current control programs.  For example, nitrogen oxide emissions will have to be further reduced by 29 percent by 2014 and 76 percent by 2023.  (Emission reduction measures must be in place the year before the attainment deadline.)

AQMD believes that most of the future reductions must come from mobile sources, a category that includes everything from cars to heavy-duty trucks to locomotives and ships, and is currently responsible for about 75 percent of all smog- and particulate-forming emissions.

To achieve these goals, the plan relies on the adoption and successful implementation of dozens of air pollution control measures — primarily by the state Air Resources Board, but also by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), AQMD, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and the Southern California Association of Governments.

The plan includes 37 control measures proposed for adoption by AQMD, including mitigating emissions from new commercial and residential developments; further reductions from industrial facilities through modernization of equipment and reductions from gas stations.

The plan also relies on EPA’s adoption of additional regulations including more stringent locomotive standards; full implementation of the landmark San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan by the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles; and transportation control measures enacted by the Southern California Association of Governments and individual local governments.  
“Everyone must do their fair share to clean the air, from the largest business to the individual consumer,” Wallerstein said.

While most of the emission reductions needed to achieve the particulate standard have been identified, recent efforts have focused on defining control measures to cut a final 74 tons per day of nitrogen oxide emissions.  AQMD’s plan relies on a three-pronged approach for these reductions:

Recommending the state Air Resources Board strengthen its planned measures, including accelerating the introduction of ultra-clean cars such as plug-in hybrids; and more rapidly replacing dirty, old diesel engines in construction and industrial equipment, locomotives, and heavy-duty vehicles, including those at the ports;

Strengthening AQMD’s planned control measures for restaurant charbroilers and residential fireplaces and woodstoves; and

Pursuing the Southern California Association of Governments’ plan for a high-speed transport system and truck-only lanes.

Once the plan was approved by AQMD’s Board, it then must be approved by the state Air Resources Board and submitted to EPA for its review and approval.

There are stakes for failing to meet the federal clean air deadlines.  In addition to health effects, the region faces potential Draconian sanctions by the federal government for failing to meet clean air deadlines including the loss of billions of dollars in federal highway funds, higher costs for emission credits needed for new businesses and the imposition of a federal clean air plan.

The entire plan is on the web at www.aqmd.gov.   AQMD is the air pollution control agency for Orange County and major portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

Wood Burning Fireplaces Could Be Outlawed

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