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By Tim Hunt

A timely reversal

Uploaded: Sep 24, 2015

The surprise of the week is that the Bay Area air quality board retreated from its onerous regulation proposal on wood-burning fireplaces.
The rule would have prevented homes from being rented or sold with open-hearth unless they were retrofitted with new wood-burning stoves; they were converted to gas or electric furnaces; or the chimneys were sealed.
The regulators had argued that the changes were necessary to continue to clean up the Bay Area's air that already is generally clean.
During a serious of public hearings, the testimony, according to news reports and Michael Austin of Pleasanton who attended several of them, was overwhelmingly against the heavy-handed regulation.
The board staff has shifted to a simple proposal to require home sellers and landlords to disclose the health hazards of burning wood.
That's a more rational approach, but still ventures into raising unnecessary red flags—it's likely designed to save face for the staff. Remember, this outfit still has the authority to declare no-burn days and receives plenty of publicity around them.
The Bay Area air district is governed by a regional board of elected officials. The regional board—similar to those overseeing transportation and planning—almost completely insulates elected officials from having to face their constituents and be held responsible for their actions.
Earlier, Austin pointed out that the feedback in public hearings has been 99 percent opposed and the Bay Area, in a seven-year period, has had just two years with 14 days that exceeded the very low limits. It doesn't seem like too big a problem, particularly given that the current regulations have resulted in a 59 percent decrease in pollutants tied to burning wood.
All of these potential mandates are decided by a board with no direct accountability to the voters—just as the state air and water boards do.
It is literally tragic to see how much authority Congress and the Legislature have placed in the hands of bureaucrats and regulators whether it is with ObamaCare, the disastrous Dodd-Frank financial institutions bill or all of the environmental regulations.