Starting next fall it will be illegal to install wood-burning heaters and stoves in new homes in at least one major American city: San Francisco.
Even wood stoves certified as low emission by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be banned.
“We are serious about reducing the health risks associated with our residents’ exposure to wood smoke,” Kristine Roselius, a spokeswoman for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, told the Contra Costa County Times. “We are strengthening a rule that has been successful in protecting public health.”
All 22 members of the district’s board of directors voted to amend regulations to bar the installation of wood-burning heaters in new homes starting November 1, 2016. The district consists of the nine counties that surround San Francisco Bay and includes: San Francisco County, Alameda County (Oakland), Contra Costa County, Napa County, Santa Clara County (San Jose), San Mateo County, Southwestern Solano County and Southern Sonoma County.
Fireplaces Already Illegal
Wood-burning heaters will still be allowed in existing homes, the Contra Costa Times reported, although sellers must give buyers a form explaining the “health risks” or burning smoke.
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A ban on traditional fireplaces already was in place in the region.
The board also voted to end all automatic exemptions to its existing wood-burning ban, including one that exempts people who live in areas with no natural gas lines. Currently, such residents are exempt on high-pollution days. People living in areas with no natural gas will have to file for an exemption.
Some members of the board wanted to go farther. Earlier this year a measure that would have required home owners to get rid of old-fashioned fireplaces and wood stoves before placing a home on the market was rejected.
John Crouch, a spokesman for the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, criticized the new rule.
“I think this is an overreaction,” Crouch told the newspaper. “I don’t think other pollution boards will take this approach.” (Listen to Off The Grid Radio’s in-depth interview with Crouch here.)
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The district’s action is part of a growing movement to ban or restrict wood burning in the United States and Canada. Ban proponents believe that wood burning fills the air with fine particle pollutants that can cause health problems such as asthma, bronchitis, heart attacks and strokes. The installation of new wood-burning heaters has been illegal in Montreal since 2009.
Critics say such laws are government overreach lacking common sense – and note that people have heated their homes with wood for thousands of years.
“It seems that even wood isn’t green or renewable enough anymore,” columnist Larry Bell wrote on Forbes.com “… [It’s] the oldest heating method known to mankind and mainstay of rural homes and many of our nation’s poorest residents.”
About 12 percent of all homes rely primarily on wood, Bell said, quoting census data.
It looks as if burning wood for heat could soon become an endangered species in many parts of North America.
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