Utah’s Wood Burning Stove Replacement Project

 In Environmental Federalism
Photo by Teddy Kelley on Unsplash

By Carter Harrison

Abstract

Three areas in Utah exceed the particulate matter air pollution standards set by the EPA. Since 2014 the Utah Legislature has passed 55 bills related to air quality, and air quality has been one of Governor Herbert’s highest priorities.1 In addition to regulatory changes, some of the state’s most cost-effective solutions to its air quality problems are centered on attempts to create incentives for individuals to change behavior.2 One of the incentive-based programs designed to reduce air pollution is the Wood Stove Conversion Assistance Program.3 Beginning October 22, 2018, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is using a $9.5 million4 grant from the EPA to replace thousands of wood burning stoves over the five years.5

The Problem

The three PM 2.5 nonattainment areas in the state; Logan, UT/ID, Salt Lake City, and Provo, received this designation because of the high levels of particulate matter pollution they experience.6 This type of pollutant is concerning during the winter when inversions are frequent.7 An inversion is a meteorological phenomenon, during which cold air is trapped below a layer of warmer air,8 This “ceiling” traps the air and any pollutants for days at a time as a result of little to no circulation, creating a haze that is common during the winter months.9

During inversion periods, the particulate matter pollution, also called PM pollution, becomes concerning.

PM pollution is regulated under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).10 PM pollution is categorized by size11, and the most important PM size identification is PM2.5, particles with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers.12 Although slightly larger particles are important, PM2.5 particles are considered more dangerous because their size allows for penetration into the lungs and bloodstream.13 Exposure to these particles may be especially harmful to those suffering from asthma, coronary heart disease, heart failure, and to young children whose hearts and lungs are still developing.14 Symptoms of inhaling PM2.5 pollution include shortness of breath, chest pain, aggravation of preexisting lung conditions, coughing, throat irritation, and many others.15

The two major contributors to high levels of PM2.5 in Utah are mobile/vehicular sources and area16 sources, which include emissions from homes and businesses, and wood burning.17 Technological advancements have decreased the contribution vehicle emissions have on air pollution, leaving more room for improvements for sources like wood stoves.18 The smoke from a wood burning furnace or stove contains as much as 3000 times more PM than a natural gas stove.19 This difference attracted the Utah Legislature and DEQ to the Wood Burning Stove Replacement Project.20

INSERT EMISSIONS HERE

The State’s Experiment

In 2016, the director of the Utah Division of Environmental Quality (DEQ) stated that robustly addressing the issue of wood burning is one of the best remaining solutions to poor air quality in Utah. Some cities enacted and enforced wood burning restriction laws in an attempt to decrease PM2.5 emissions and the frequency of “red” or “bad” air days.21

The amount of PM2.5 pollution in the air on any given day determines whether the air quality rating is “good” or “bad.”22 These ratings range from “good,” when PM2.5 is under 35.4 μg/m3, (micrograms per cubic meter of air) or “unhealthy for sensitive groups” and “hazardous” when PM 2.5 is as high as 250.5μg/m3.23 Unless it is the sole source of heat in a home, Utah law prohibits the use of wood burning furnaces on bad air days.24 Despite burning restrictions, however, many people continue to use the wood-burning stoves to heat their homes.25

The Utah State Legislature passed the Wood Burning Amendments in 2014 (HB 154) to create the authority to seek federal or state funding for a wood stove burning conversion project.26 This law was designed to help homes where wood burning is the sole provider of heat convert those stoves to natural gas stoves (or other efficient home heating sources).27 In 2016, when the conversion project was completed, 35 homes were serviced with an estimated 4.6-ton reduction in emissions.28

A similar project was initiated in 2018 as a result of a $9.5 million EPA grant awarded to the state.29 As part of the project, homeowners from Cache, Box Elder, Weber, Davis, Salt Lake, Tooele, and Utah counties can apply for a rebate to convert their wood-burning stove.30 Income qualifications apply as well, designating a $3,800 rebate for low-income households and $2,800 for non-low-income households.31 Rebate recipients have the option to turn in their wood burning stove or fireplace in return for a gas or propane furnace, or an uncertified wood stove for an EPA certified wood stove.32 Even the heaviest polluting stoves offered in the program reduce PM2.5 emissions by 60%, whereas natural gas stoves emit ⅙ of the annual pollution a wood burning stove does.33 The Utah DEQ will service over 1500 homes34 across the state this year and the program is prepared to continue servicing homes for the next five years.35

Conclusion

Wood burning is attributed to at least 15% of the wintertime air pollution and five36 of the top wood burning cities in Utah reside within each of the three nonattainment areas.37 The incentive-based Wood Burning Stove Replacement Program discussed in this report is the second of its kind in Utah.38 While the program is just beginning, the effect of the total emissions will be unknown for some time, however, officials are hopeful the impact it will have on Utah’s air will be positive. A history of examples support the benefits of incentive-based policies, including their cost-effectiveness and flexibility that allows polluters to play a part in finding a path to reduction.39

Notes


  1. Scott Baird. “State Legislature Set to Address Utah’s Air, Land and Water.”. January 25, 2019. https://deq.utah.gov/communication/news/state-legislature-set-to-address-utahs-air-land-and-water; Erica Evans. “What’s Stopping Utah’s Legislature from Solving the Air Pollution Problem? Inside the Politics of Clean Air.” December 18,2019. https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900046954  

  2. Baird. “State Legislature Set to Address Utah’s Air, Land and Water.”. January 25, 2019. 

  3. “Wood Stove Conversion Assistance Program.” Utah DEQ. February 04, 2019. https://deq.utah.gov/air-quality/wood-stove-conversion-assistance-program.  

  4. During the 2019 legislative session, HB 0357 appropriated an additional $5 million to conversion of wood stoves in Utah.  

  5. Thom Carter. “Wood Stove Rebate Program Will Help Reduce Emissions.” Utah Department of Environmental Quality. October 19, 2018. https://deq.utah.gov/communication/news/wood-stove-rebate-program-reduce-emissions.  

  6. “Area Designations: PM2.5 State Implementation Plan Development.” Utah DEQ. 2007. https://deq.utah.gov/legacy/pollutants/p/particulate-matter/pm25/areas.htm.  

  7. “Inversions.” Utah Department of Environmental Quality. 2009. https://deq.utah.gov/legacy/pollutants/p/particulate-matter/inversions.htm.  

  8. “Inversions.” Utah Department of Environmental Quality. 2009. https://deq.utah.gov/legacy/pollutants/p/particulate-matter/inversions.htm; Esmaiel Malek, Tess Davis, Randal S. Martin, and Philip J. Silva. “Meteorological and Environmental Aspects of One of the Worst National Air Pollution Episodes (Januar, 2004) in Logan, Cache Valley, Utah, USA.” Atmospheric Research 79, no. 2 (2006). 

  9. “Inversions.” Utah Department of Environmental Quality. 2009. https://deq.utah.gov/legacy/pollutants/p/particulate-matter/inversions.htm.  

  10. “NAAQS Table.” EPA. December 20, 2016. https://www.epa.gov/criteria-air-pollutants/naaqs-table.  

  11. According to the EPA and the Utah Department of Health website, the only regulate particulate matter pollution that is regulated is PM2.5 or the fine particles. These are more complex mixtures of solid particles and liquid droplets and are 30 times smaller than the average human hair. http://health.utah.gov/utahair/pollutants/PM/  

  12. “Air Pollution and Public Health in Utah.” Utah Tobacco Prevention and Control Program- Utah Smoke-Free Apartment and Condominium Guide- Signs. February 01, 2019. http://health.utah.gov/utahair/pollutants/PM/.  

  13. “Air Pollution and Public Health in Utah.” Utah Tobacco Prevention and Control Program. February 01, 2019. 

  14. “UtahAir – Particulate Matter,” Utah.Gov, 2013, http://health.utah.gov/utahair/pollutants/PM/.  

  15. “Air Pollution and Public Health in Utah.” Utah Tobacco Prevention and Control Program. February 01, 2019. 

  16. “Urban Air Toxics Strategy Area Source Standards | Technology … – EPA.” https://www3.epa.gov/airtoxics/area/arearules.html. Accessed 12 Jun. 2019. 

  17. Bo Call. “Understanding the Sources and Causes of Utah’s Air Pollution.” December 26, 2018. https://deq.utah.gov/communication/news/featured/understanding-utahs-air-quality.  

  18. “Utah Priorities 2016, Issue #2: Air Quality.” Utah Foundation. October 12, 2016. http://www.utahfoundation.org/reports/utah-priorities-2016-issue-2-air-quality/.  

  19. “Pollution Sources.”. January 07, 2015. https://www.kued.org/whatson/the-air-we-breathe/background/pollution-sources.  

  20. “Wood Stove Conversion Assistance Program.” UCAIR. October 23, 2018 

  21. Joel Karmazyn. “Polluting Wood Stoves Go up in Smoke with Sole-Source Conversion Program.” April 09, 2018. https://deq.utah.gov/communication/news/sole-source-conversion-air-quality-homeowners.  

  22. “Utah DEQ: DAQ: Current Conditions,” Utah.Gov, 2019, https://air.utah.gov/currentconditions.php?id=sm.  

  23. “Cache County-Current Conditions.” Accessed February 18, 2019. https://air.utah.gov/currentconditions.php?id=sm.  

  24. Joel Karmazyn. “Polluting Wood Stoves Go up in Smoke with Sole-Source Conversion Program.” April 09, 2018. 

  25. “Wood Stove Conversion Assistance Program.” UCAIR. October 23, 2018. https://www.ucair.org/blog/wood-stove-conversion-assistance-program-2/.  

  26. H.R. 154, Session of 2014 (Utah, 2014), https://le.utah.gov/~2014/bills/static/HB0154.html  

  27. Carter. “Wood Stove Rebate Program Will Help Reduce Emissions.” October 19, 2018 

  28. Joel Karmazyn. “Polluting Wood Stoves Go up in Smoke with Sole-Source Conversion Program.” April 09, 2018. 

  29. Carter. “Wood Stove Rebate Program Will Help Reduce Emissions.” October 19, 2018. 

  30. “Wood Stove Conversion Assistance Program.” UCAIR. October 23, 2018. 

  31. IBID 

  32. IBID 

  33. Carter. “Wood Stove Rebate Program Will Help Reduce Emissions.” October 19, 2018. 

  34. The number of awards in 2018 are: 497 in Cache County, 482 in Utah County and 533 in Salt Lake, Davis, Tooele, Box Elder, Weber counties. 

  35. Joel Karmazyn. “Polluting Wood Stoves Go up in Smoke with Sole-Source Conversion Program.” April 09, 2018. 

  36. From 1 to 5 the cities are: North Provo, Smithfield, Salt Lake, and Brigham City 

  37. “Wood-Burning Restrictions Go into Effect November 1, 2018.” Utah DEQ. November 01, 2018. https://deq.utah.gov/communication/news/wood-burning-restrictions-november-1-2018.  

  38. “Wood Stove Conversion Assistance Program.” UCAIR. October 23, 2018. 

  39. “Economic Incentives.” EPA. February 01, 2018. https://www.epa.gov/environmental-economics/economic-incentives; “Regulatory Policy vs Economic Incentives.” The Environmental Literacy Council. Accessed February 19, 2019. https://enviroliteracy.org/environment-society/economics/regulatory-policy-vs-economic-incentives/.