Staff Recommends Mandatory Wood Burning Ban

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woodburningIn a marked shift in policy, staff is moving away from past voluntary wood burning bans which largely failed and is now recommending that council adopt an urgency ordinance and introduce a regular ordinance that would regulate wood burning.

Since 2009, the City has been implementing a voluntary wood burning program in coordination with the Yolo Solano Air Quality Management District (YSAQMD). During this period the City and YSAQMD coordinated on air quality monitoring activities and consideration of alternatives to the voluntary policy.

On September 25 the Council directed staff to return with a wood burning ordinance, consistent with NRC policy direction approved at its September 24 meeting, for Council consideration in advance of the 2012-13 burn season (beginning November 1). Staff and the City Attorney have developed a proposed wood burning ordinance that can be effective by November 1.

If adopted, Davis would be the first city in Yolo County to adopt a mandatory wood burning policy.

One of the critical questions in the public debate over a wood burning ban would be over enforcement, with difficulties being blown into hyperbole with the suggestion of police having to enforce the policy.

Writes staff, “The program being proposed by staff provides the authority and structure to assess fines and enforcement actions for egregious offenders, yet will be implemented with a strong focus on education.”

They add, “Adoption of this program does not preclude the City from pursuing a more comprehensive curtailment program should it choose, however the analysis performed over the past three years indicates that the majority of complaints regarding wood burning seem to be the result of a small number of properties and the effort and expense of a more comprehensive program may not be necessary to alleviate the vast majority of problems.”

In short, the staff believes and probably with justification that such a policy would not entail a massive new enforcement effort such as has been feared or lampooned by opposition.

There are six critical elements to the proposed ordinance:

  • Sets the trigger for curtailment days at the federal 24-hour fine particle (PM2.5) standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3).
  • Provides exemptions for USEPA Phase II certified devices, if burning properly, and when electrical and gas services are not available.
  • Provides a waiver program to address economic hardship cases.
  • Provides for the assessment of fines via an administrative citation with fines up to $100 for an initial offense, $200 for a second offense in a one year period and $500 for the third, or more offense in a one year period.
  • Provides that the posting of a curtailment day notice on the City of Davis website will serve as public notice.
  • Provides that the City will rely on the forecast of curtailment days used by the Yolo- Solano Air Quality Management District.

These policies address some of the other concerns, including those who utilize wood burning out of economic hardship.

The urgency ordinance would go into effect immediately.

“To ensure the City can implement an ordinance this burn season, a regular ordinance is also being introduced. This ordinance contains the same language as the urgency ordinance, but requires a second reading before it can be adopted and a 30-day period before it becomes effective,” staff writes.  “The regular ordinance is being pursued in the event that the urgency ordinance findings are challenged and found to be invalid. This ensures that the City will have an ordinance in place during the 2012- 13 burn season period (November 1 February 28).”

According to the proposed ordinance, the prohibition would take effect in any period for which the City of Davis posts an advisory on its website where the forecasted fine particulate matter concentration is expected to exceed the critical 35 micrograms per cubic meter level.

The exemptions include the operation “of a U.S. EPA Phase II certified wood burning device or a pellet fueled wood burning heater, provided that the devices do not emit visible emissions, except for one period of not more than twenty minutes within any consecutive four hour period during the start up of a new fire.”

It would also not take effect for “the use of a wood burning device when no gas or electrical service heating system is installed in the structure and the wood burning device is the sole source of interior heat for the structure” or “the use of a wood burning device when electrical power service is not available, during times of temporary service outages.”

In addition, a waiver may be issued if the “director determines that there are compelling economic reasons to grant the waiver that outweigh the adverse impacts to the environment.”

In September, the NRC recommended that the City Council implement a pilot program with respect to posting the allowable burn days on the city website and as resources allow, they “recommend that an additional educational program be implemented to instruct the public on proper fire-starting and fire-burning methods.”

They write, “The NRC recognizes that while many Davis residences find fireplaces and wood burning appliances a desirable amenity, wood smoke consists of fine particles which are regarded as a health hazard by both national and state health professionals.”

“Regional air quality standards have been promulgated identifying maximum ambient levels of particulates in the air tolerable to the general population without adverse health effects,” they continue.  “Unfortunately, use of wood burning appliances under certain weather conditions can result in wood smoke concentrations that significantly exceed these particulate air quality standards and adversely affect residents. The operation of wood burning appliances therefore needs to be regulated so as not to cause significant health risks to susceptible citizens.”

They add, “Currently, Davis residents affected by excessive local wood smoke sources have no available recourse or means to limit or stop the exposure and potential adverse health impacts.”

The NRC had made a number of proposals that were “rejected by the City Council, however, because they were deemed to be too complex or difficult to explain to the public.”

The new proposal has been successfully implemented by the Sacramento Air Quality Management District for the past four years and has been deemed “hugely successful in reducing PM2.5 levels of air in the region while entailing comparatively little expense to the District and little resistance from the general public. Indeed, the SacAQMD has stated that these restrictions have been the most cost effective anti-pollution measure they have ever undertaken.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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23 thoughts on “Staff Recommends Mandatory Wood Burning Ban”

  1. Lydia L.

    If adopted, Davis would be the first city in Yolo County to adopt a mandatory wood burning policy.
    I agree w/ a mandatory policy. Residents should not have to stay inside their homes due to excessive smoke in the air. I used to live in the Willamette valley in Oregon. On the few beautiful sunny days when the air was crystal clean from many moths of rain, in a matter of hours our neighbors wood burning would fill the air with smokey clouds. There are asthma sufferers who have a right to go outside. There are alternative, clean burning wood logs that Davisites can use for a romantic evening by the fire with their $75 dollar bottles of wine. So I agree with a ban on woodburning. Oh, and there are ways to keep your really expensive outdoor wood burning pizza ovens, too. Peace.

  2. SouthofDavis

    > They add, “Currently, Davis residents
    > affected by excessive local wood smoke
    > sources have no available recourse or
    > means to limit or stop the exposure and
    > potential adverse health impacts.”

    This is not true, it is easy to get an air filtering system in a home and most new nicer cars come with them from the factory. If you want to walk around an inexpensive automotive painters respirator will filter out just about everything (and you won’t need to call the cops when I put the mesquite chips on my bar-b-q)…

  3. rusty49

    SOD, your BBQ will be next then your gas lawn mower, blower, weedeater…. That’s how this all works, they take little steps then one day you wake up and say WTF.

  4. David M. Greenwald

    Why must they be sequential steps? Why do they have to be incremental steps rather than making a decision on the merits versus the harms of each?

  5. rusty49

    David, one had to picked first, it just happened to be wood burning fireplaces. I think you and the NRC know that if they bite off too big of a chunk they’ll have a much harder time implementing their policies.

  6. hpierce

    [quote]and when electrical and gas services are not available.[/quote]As that sentence was constructed, it appears that if EITHER an electrical OR a gas service exists, the EPA stove could NOT be used.

    Should it read something along the lines of, if either an electrical or gas service is NOT available, then the stove would be allowed?

    There must be a tiny handful of residential properties that do not have an electrical service.

  7. David M. Greenwald

    Maybe Rusty, but I haven’t really seen the movement to ban the other things you have discussed, whereas wood burning is an issue most communities are having to deal with as we learn more about the health impacts of particulate matter.

    You also realize that this is getting passed right? Council asked for this to come back to them.

  8. hpierce

    [quote]You also realize that this is getting passed right? Council asked for this to come back to them. [/quote]Passed by NRC? Extremely likely, probably a ‘sure thing’… by the CC? If THAT is a sure thing, even tho’ they do not have recommended ordinance in front of the, not a Public Hearing, THAT would be truly disturbing.

  9. rusty49

    David:
    “Maybe Rusty, but I haven’t really seen the movement to ban the other things you have discussed, whereas wood burning is an issue most communities are having to deal with as we learn more about the health impacts of particulate matter.”

    And years ago you didn’t see any movement to ban wood burning fireplaces or plastic bags either. But here we are.

  10. SouthofDavis

    rusty49 wrote:

    > SOD, your BBQ will be next then your
    > gas lawn mower, blower, weedeater….
    > That’s how this all works, they take little
    > steps then one day you wake up and say WTF.

    Then David wrote:

    > Maybe Rusty, but I haven’t really seen
    > the movement to ban the other things
    > you have discussed

    I would be surprised if David (who seems to read quite a bit from the left leaning press) has not seen anything about the movement (mostly pushed by people on the left that feel we are DOOMED if I continue to mow my lawn with a gas powered lawn mower) to ban gas lawn mowers, blowers and weedeaters…

    Google search for “lawn mower ban” (in quotes) 395 results including:

    “Some 200 people have signed off on a letter written by Cleveland Park email list master Bill Adler that calls on Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh to introduce legislation to ban gas-powered lawn mowers”
    http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/citydesk/2012/05/07/a-call-to-ban-some-leaf-blowers/

    Google search for “leaf blower ban” (in quotes) 36,500 results including:

    “Arlington will convene a Special Town Meeting tonight to reconsider the town ban on gas-powered leaf blowers”
    http://www.boston.com/yourtown/news/arlington/2012/10/arlington_to_tackle_controvers.html

    Google search for “weedeater ban” (in quotes) did not find anything, but I did find:

    “staff report back on the effects of other noise producing machines including weed eaters and lawn mowers.”
    http://www.zapla.org/overview/blowerdef.html

  11. Davis Enophile

    As written, this ordinance does not prohibit use of an EPA Phase II device. What the NRC had come up with before limited the use of EPA Phase II devices. This ordinance targets open hearth fireplaces. This is a vastly improved ordinance and will bring some stability to the wood/pellet burning market. If one trusts that this is as far as it will go, people will feel the investment in a Phase II device will be worth it in the long run, which will improve air quality.

  12. Davis Enophile

    Lydia

    I take offense to your disparaging remarks about wine consumption. Just for that, I will be cracking open a fine bottle of Dry Creek Valley zinfandel while I grill local free range lamb over a real outdoor wood fire made of seasoned almond wood, also locally grown. Take that!

  13. Skip Harrison

    I have an open hearth fireplace that I’ve used once in about 20 years. The three day period I did use it was when PG&E had a power outage in my neighborhood and couldn’t get it resolved for about 4 days. So I really don’t care, personally, if there is a ban or not. I do see the balancing act between health concerns and personal freedoms.

    The reason I am posting here is because of Lydia L. Last week concerning the DHS/Jesuit “Weiner” she made a passioned plea for people not to jump all over her for her opinions, which I thought was reasonable. But after her post today I can see why one would lash out at her cheap shots about expensive wines and outdoor pizza ovens. I don’t drink wine, I just thought it was lame.

  14. Lydia L.

    “SOD, your BBQ will be next then your gas lawn mower, blower, weedeater…. That’s how this all works, they take little steps then one day you wake up and say WTF.”

    S.O.D. won’t be waking up because the leaf blowers are so g.d. loud, you can’t possibly fall asleep. And the gasoline powered ones stink to high heavens. Peace.

  15. rusty49

    Lydia, I think you’re on to something there. After the NRC and city council ban plastic bags and wood burning fireplaces, maybe they can move on to ban things that are too loud or too smelly. The possibilities are endless.

  16. Lydia L.

    Davis Enophile, Can I come over for dinner? I’ll bring my own locally grown greens & mission olives (myer lemon infused from local lemons) we cured from the greenbelt & we’ll all just eat a meal in harmony. Peace.

  17. Davis Enophile

    Lydia – A lot can be gained from sharing a meal with a person. What do think it takes to be invited into a strangers house? Think on that for a while.

  18. Alan Miller

    “the staff believes and probably with justification that such a policy would not entail a massive new enforcement effort such as has been feared or lampooned by opposition”

    Yeah, ‘cuz that’s how it always goes with government programs #ahem#.

  19. jimt

    Supporting Rusty’s thesis, I would heartily endorse a ban on leafblowers!

    Besides being a chronic source of noise pollution, they raise a load that includes dust and fine grit, and spread it around in a small cloud that drifts with the breeze to the neighbors property and inside open windows, including 2nd floor windows, supplementing the interior of homes and apartments with a wonderful layer of dust and grit. I suspect a lot of small allergens are included in this mix; that are normally lifted from ground surface only by very strong winds; a leafblower pointing somewhat downward generates such wind forces and beyond. Overall, I suspect more people with asthma and lung conditions are adversely impacted by leafblowers than by woodsmoke; though at chronic low levels that just haven’t been documented.

    So I say add leafblowers to the banned list first; then figure out a way to deal with woodsmoke! On the other hand, a lot of jobs would go as there would be much less recirculation of dust and grit, as it gets blown from one place around the neighborhood, and then back to where it started to initiate the circulation pattern again; except where part of this grit and dust gets lodged in peoples airways (nose, throat, lungs) and thus removed from circulation.

  20. David M. Greenwald

    “And years ago you didn’t see any movement to ban wood burning fireplaces “

    This ordinance does not ban wood burning fireplaces – it restrict days that they can be used, that doesn’t seem that unreasonable.

  21. CaresAboutHealth

    There is no safe level of air pollution. Research over the past 20 years has shown that most premature deaths due to air pollution occur when the air meets current standards.

    There’s also evidence that the toxic chemicals in woodsmoke cause serious harm to unborn children – see http://woodsmoke.3sc.net/pah

    If residents of Davis cared about their health and and the health of their children, mandatory burn bans would kick in a lot earlier – whenever PM2.5 measurements were likely to exceed 10 ug/m3.

    A non-certified wood stove emit more pollution in 9 hours of use than a mid size car does in a year. http://www.pq.lung.ca/environment-environnement/wood_smoke-fumee_bois/enjeu-montreal/ And a certified on emits more pollution in 24 hours of use than a year’s worth of driving.

    We all enjoy better health because we cleaned up car pollution. The average certified wood stove emits more pollution per year than 100 or more cars.

    New, clean-burning woodstoves are long overdue. Rather than the severe damage to health evident at levels of PM2.5 pollution over 10 ug/m3 I would suggest introducing mandatory burn bans at this level of pollution, except for models that emit no more pollution per year than the average mid-size car.

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