By Tim Hunt
Air board piles on more regulationsUploaded: Nov 3, 2015
The Bay Area air board directors took another Draconian action last week when they decided to ban wood-burning fireplaces or inserts in all new construction. It took place just as the board’s “Winter Spare the Air” season started last Sunday.
The ban includes the highly efficient, low-emission wood stoves that burn wood pellets.
In its never-ending quest for pristine mountain air, the board became the first one in the nation to ban all wood-burning stoves. The district staff had earlier proposed forced retrofitting to eliminate wood burning stoves when homes were sold or new tenants came into rentals. That proposal was shelved for the time being, but they pushed ahead with the other proposal.
The directors, mostly elected officials from Bay Area cities and counties, voted unanimously to approve the regulation. Any changes to fireplaces in a remodel costing more than $15,000 will require homeowners to retrofit with a natural gas furnace or eliminate the fireplace.
The district estimates that wood particles make up an estimated 39 percent of the fine particulates on cold winter days. After several years of voluntary requests not to burn, directors approved the wood burning ban days with penalties in 2008. As last week’s actions show, the board has continued to pile on additional regulations.
The new plan also tightened exemptions on homes with wood stoves that are the only source of heat. These wood stoves must now be approved by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which means retrofitting for older homes with wood stoves.
The regulations also allow the air board to issue advisories three days in advance, which likely will mean much longer no-burn periods.
Certainly, we all want clean air—check out the board’s history on its website.
As one who grew up in Pleasanton and has lived in the valley for more than 50 years, I can recall too many days when we could not see Mt. Diablo from Interstate 580 on summer and fall days. That is rarely the case now—the worse we see in unusually warm, stagnant weather, is a brown haze.
This is a classic case of a government agency that never can be satisfied with what is clean enough—thus their services are no longer required.