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Bill seeks lower cap on emissions of home heating devices

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Posted: Friday, March 22, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 6:27 am, Fri Mar 22, 2013.

JUNEAU — A House committee heard and approved a bill by Rep. Tammie Wilson that would create a new statewide emissions standard on home heating devices that’s two-thirds lower than what’s needed for Environmental Protection Agency certification.

Stoves can win EPA certification if they emit less than 7.5 grams of particulate matter per hour for each 200,000 Btu of heat output. House Bill 163 would set the state’s cap at 2.5 grams.

Wilson, R-North Pole, says the standard, which grandfathers existing stoves, would slowly help clean the air and help areas like Fairbanks meet federal standards for clean air.

“HB 163 ensures the most efficient EPA-certified appliances are installed as homeowners naturally upgrade their units,” she said. “By installing the best technology, air quality on the neighborhood and regional level will also improve.”

Wilson said the standards should apply statewide because it’s a proactive way to improve the whole state in case the EPA enacts more stringent air emission standards.

Roy Ponder, the manager at wood stove seller The Woodway in Fairbanks, said a little less than half of the available models he carriers would meet the 2.5-gram standard but that they are mostly the more expensive devices with catalytic converters.

He said the one of the drawbacks of a high-efficiency stove compared to ones above the proposed standard is what kind of wood you can put in them.

“The largest consumer concerns there is with a low-particulate stove is they’ll be intolerant of wet wood. Some higher-emissions stoves are capable of running with wetter wood,” he said. High-efficiency stoves “require dry wood. But, it makes you do what you should do.”

He said the cleaner stoves carry several advantages, though.

“A lot of the high-efficiency stoves perform very well,” he said. “As far as the burn times and amount of heat you’re going to get, the high efficiency stoves are very desirable stoves to the consumer.”

The House Community and Regional Affairs Committee heard the bill for about 30 minutes, and both Republican and Democratic members of the committee appeared favorable about the bill.

Chairwoman Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, supported increasing the state’s standards but had questions about a provision that would bar second- and third-class local governments, like the Fairbanks North Star Borough, from enforcing burn bans unless authorized by the governor.

“What’s the rationale?” she asked.

Wilson said second- and third-class local governments will be able to but that, because they don’t have police powers, they can’t effectively enforce a burn ban.

Wilson was a key figure behind two successful efforts to bar the Fairbanks North Star Borough from enforcing air pollution regulations on home heating devices in any way, with the most recent initiative passing last year.

Instead of fines or burn bans, Wilson said natural gas and improved technology, like what was the case with vehicle emissions, is the key to solving Fairbanks’ problems with air pollution.

“It was not the I/M (inspection/maintenance) program that solved that; it was technology that did it,” she said. “It’s my belief if we had such a bill in place when they went we wouldn’t be in non-attainment” of federal standards.

Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544 and follow him on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.

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