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Incentives to update woodstoves could lead to cleaner air

SHERRY MAYS

Truckee’s air quality may get a boost this winter with the help of a new incentive plan on the drawing tables.

The Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District recently presented the latest study results on options to control Truckee’s woodstove emissions to the district’s board of directors. The results may prompt a new incentive program geared toward replacing older woodstoves as early as January, officials said.

“We have to start getting the word out,” said Rod Hill, NSAQMD’s air pollution control officer. “If Truckee decides to implement this plan, air pollution levels could drop dramatically.”

The district’s proposed plan, “The Great Woodstove Trade-Out,” would provide financial incentives to residents replacing older, high-polluting woodstoves with new Environmental Protection Agency certified woodstoves, gas firelog heating devices, or propane or natural gas heaters.

Hill said incentives would initially be sponsored by the Hearth Products Association, which manufactures woodstove products. Program incentives would then be matched by retailers, with the intention of presenting residents with substantial savings.

Hill said that he wasn’t sure how much manufacturers and retailers would offer for savings, but he said he hoped savings would be at least 30 percent.

“We are hoping to sweeten the pot with funding from the Union Pacific merger,” he said. “The railroad company put $300,000 toward mitigating air pollution in the Truckee area as part of the merger deal.”

$300,000 is waiting

The Town of Truckee’s Duane Hall said the $300,000 is ready and waiting, but the town is not ready to disperse the funds because it is still in the midst of drafting an air quality management plan.

“We are working on an operation plan with Placer County to better the air quality in Martis Valley,” Hall said. “We hope to have the plan finalized by the end of the fall. This is the best thing we can do.”

Hill agreed replacing older woodstoves with newer heating devices is the best defense against polluted air in Martis Valley.

“Small changes in the way people heat their homes will go a long way,” Hill said. “If we could change out several hundred stoves, there would be a major shift in Truckee’s air quality.”

Bowl shape traps air

Truckee’s natural bowl shape helps to trap in the dirty air. This is especially noticeable with winter’s temperature inversions. The colder air close to the ground traps the air laden with particulates and causes a fog-type layer, sometimes dangerous for people with allergies or respiratory problems.

Hill said the difference between what the older and newer stoves emit is valuable when looking for solutions to Truckee’s air quality woes.

Hill said older stoves emit up to 60 grams of particulates per hour. Newer woodstoves emit up to seven grams of particulates per hour.

“Better yet, the efficient gas firelog devices only emit up to one and a half grams per hour,” he said. “Changes like this are incredible. That’s why we hope the air quality management plan moves quickly through the town council.”

Heard rumors before

Ken Easley, owner of Truckee River Stove, said he will support the woodstove trade-out, but said he hopes this program isn’t just a rumor.

“We’ve been hearing rumors about the trade-out program, but we haven’t seen anything yet,” he said.

Easley said he thought natural gas stoves to be the wave of the future in the stove industry.

“We get a lot of people in the store who are interested in alternatives to burning wood,” he said. “They are all pretty well educated about air quality and mitigation measures.”


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