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board should consider incentives instead of fireplace laws

PostPosted: Thu Apr 09, 2015 10:32 am
by Wilberforce
Marin IJ Editorial: Air board should consider incentives instead of fireplace laws

Posted: 04/04/15, 1:02 PM PDT

The Bay Area Air Quality Control District has done a good job making the public much more aware about pollution caused by wood-burning fireplaces.

Its Spare the Air program has an impressive compliance level and the public awareness it has created has likely made most homeowners think twice before lighting a roaring fire in their fireplaces.

But the district, rather than appreciate the progress that Bay Area residents have made toward addressing air pollution, is poised to take another step — a big step.

The district is considering a fireplace retrofit law that would require the conversion of wood-burning fireplaces to cleaner gas-burning fireplaces.

The goal is to remove particulate pollutants in the area. That’s the same goal that has led to crackdowns on smokestack businesses, the now-routine requirement that cars be regularly smog tested, outlawing burning of yard clippings and, of course, Spare the Air, when wood-burning fires are prohibited on stagnant-air days or when pollution levels are already high.

The district is even talking about launching a program to provide incentives for homeowners and businesses to switch from gas-powered lawn mowers to clean-air alternatives.

The air board is holding public meetings on its proposed retrofit law around the Bay Area. Its San Rafael meeting is set for 6 p.m. April 13 at San Rafael City Hall.

We hope that at this meeting the district will detail the significant environmental benefit hoped for from its proposed conversion law and publicly address why adopting an incentive or rebate program shouldn’t be explored first.

The Spare the Air campaign, which the help of annual million-dollar promotional efforts, has made a difference, but the Bay Area still fails to meet federal clean-air standards when it comes to fine particulates.

The public awareness Spare the Air has generated already has led many households to convert to gas fireplaces. Others likely don’t light as many fires as they used to. Given that progress, growing it even further could be significantly increased through incentives and rebates than impose a financial burden on homeowners who are already abiding by the law.

Compliance, awareness and clean air should be the goal. Strategies other than imposing an onerous requirement on homeowners should be explored, implemented and evaluated.

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