Placer County updates air quality ordinance
Air pollution does not stop at county lines. And with parts of Truckee in Placer County, like Northstar, Lahontan and a few other areas, the Town of Truckee realized it needed to cooperate with Placer County to create a collaborative air quality ordinance.
Although one ordinance could not have been created for the two areas, Truckee and Placer County are working to update their ordinances to compliment one another.
Last Tuesday, Placer County took its first step toward improving air quality in the Martis Valley, passing a Martis Valley Air Quality Ordinance, which calls for a wood stove replacement program.
Placer County Board of Supervisors Chairman Rex Bloomfield and Ted Owens, the mayor of Truckee, have been working together on air quality for the past two years.
“Basically [Truckee is] in a bowl there. The air comes over the mountains and settles in,” Bloomfield said. “The goal was to make sure the same programs that existed in the Tahoe Basin and ended in Truckee were the same in the Martis Valley.”
Placer County’s new ordinance will require the replacement of old wood stoves when homes are sold, to newer, more efficient wood stoves, gas stoves or pellet stoves. Fred Yeager, Placer County’s planning director, reported that the old wood stoves pollute the air 10 to 20 times more than new, Environmental Protection Agency-approved stoves.
Owens said old stoves do not have a catalytic converter, and a lot of them are simply not sealed properly.
Bloomfield said the board of supervisors was very supportive of the ordinance, and it passed 5-0. According to him, the board thought it was very appropriate and important to keep the quality consistent between Placer County and the Town of Truckee.
Under the ordinance, homeowners will receive incentives in the form of rebates for changing to new wood stoves. Owens said the Town of Truckee has a rebate program, although he hopes to improve the rebates. Truckee is also trying to incorporate an incentive program for lower-income residents, so they can also replace their old stoves.
This will mean more work for the Placer County Building Department because it will have to provide certification for the replacement of the stoves. However, Owens said switching to more efficient wood stoves will greatly improve the air quality in the Truckee Air Basin.
Placer County’s wood stove replacement ordinance is just the beginning, Owens said. Wood stoves are the second-highest polluters in the area, and the town will try to go against No. 1 sometime soon – snow removal on Interstate 80, Owens said.
The Town of Truckee has looked into alternative sanding processes already being used in Colorado and other places, and says he hopes to work with CalTrans to improve the situation.
The problem, he said, was after the sand is dispersed on I-80 it creates a dust cloud that greatly pollutes Truckee’s air.
“It’s expensive, but it’s a health matter,” Owens said of alternative sand practices. “Pollution knows no boundaries.”