FAIRBANKS—Alaskans and others across the country could get financial help from the federal government to replace their inefficient wood stoves under legislation introduced by two senators.

The Wood Heaters Emissions Reduction Act, introduced by Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Democratic Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, would establish a grant program at the Environmental Protection Agency to help people purchase clean-burning heaters.

“Many Alaskans, along with millions of families across the country, rely on wood as an abundant, affordable fuel to heat their homes," Murkowski said in a statement announcing the legislation. "Older, inefficient appliances for wood heat can last a really long time, but newer options are better for both our health and the environment.

“The bill Sen. Carper and I introduced would provide families with a cost-effective way to transition to appliances built with the most innovative wood-burning technologies to help reduce emissions, and ensure the air we breathe is cleaner both inside and outside of our homes," she said.

The bill is notable for Fairbanks because of the persistent wintertime air pollution problem in some areas. The pollution is largely caused by fine particulate matter created by the burning of wood as a heat source.

The pair of senators introduced the legislation Dec. 19, but there was little chance the bill would become law because a new Congress takes over today. Bills that are not passed by the end of the two-year congressional term and signed into law by the president die.

The bill would need to be reintroduced in the new Congress.

The bill introduced in December would do the following, according to a news release from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee:

• "Authorize $75 million for each fiscal year 2019 through 2024 for an EPA grant program that incentives households to change-out their old wood heaters for cleaner burning stoves. Based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, an estimated 11.5 million homes use wood as a primary or secondary heat source, 58 percent of those homes are found in rural areas. It is estimated that 6 million residential wood heaters in operation today do not meet 1988 EPA Clean Air Act emission standards, much less the emissions standards implemented in 2015."

• "Replace old wood heaters with new, efficient heaters and encourage the recycling of old heaters. Creates a voluntary program to replace older wood stoves with new, efficient, cleaner burning and properly installed heaters that at least meet EPA’s most stringent wood heater emission standards."

• "Require funds to be made available to Indian tribes. EPA would make available no less than 4 percent of the funds for Indian tribes to use for maintenance and installation of the new stoves. The bill also directs EPA to use public educational outreach to develop incentives and consult Indian tribes to promote the replacement of old, inefficient wood heaters."

• "Result in cleaner air. Older, inefficient residential wood heaters can produce a deadly mix of particulate matter, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, black carbon and air toxics such as benzene and formaldehyde. EPA has determined that replacing just one old, inefficient wood heater is equivalent to taking five dirty diesel engines off the road and the monetized public health benefits from replacing the nation’s old, inefficient residential wood heaters would be up to $126 billion per year."

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