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A new fireplace in your plans? You might want to rethink that

In an effort to clean up Southland air, some of the dirtiest air in the nation, regulators are considering proposals that would put restrictions on fireplaces, according to a June 2 article in The Times:

Those proposals include a ban on wood-burning fireplaces in all new homes in Los Angeles, Orange and portions of San Bernardino and Riverside counties and a ban on wood-fueled fires in some areas during winter pollution spikes. It would also require homeowners in the most highly polluted areas of the Inland Empire to remove or close off fireplaces and wood stoves, or install costly pollution control devices on them, before selling a house.

On the plus side, if you were thinking of taking out your existing fireplace to free up wall space, or to replace it with windows to improve your view or to allow light into the house, this could be a good excuse for that.

(The full story is below.)

Clean air plan OKd by Southland regulators

If fully implemented, fireplace use could be severely restricted. Several officials express reservations about those parts of the proposal.

By Janet Wilson, Times Staff Writer

June 2, 2007

Southern California air regulators Friday approved a comprehensive clean air plan that, if fully implemented, could place stringent restrictions on home fireplaces.

But individual elements of the plan, approved unanimously by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, must be separately passed by the board in order to become law. A September vote on the fireplace measure is scheduled, but several members who approved the larger plan say they may not ultimately support those restrictions.

“We all have to do our part, including … the citizens of this region … but I do not believe that we can have a Gestapo approach to fireplaces,” said Riverside County Supervisor Roy Wilson, whose district could be hit hardest if the proposals pass.

Those proposals include a ban on wood-burning fireplaces in all new homes in Los Angeles, Orange and portions of San Bernardino and Riverside counties and a ban on wood-fueled fires in some areas during winter pollution spikes. It would also require homeowners in the most highly polluted areas of the Inland Empire to remove or close off fireplaces and wood stoves, or install costly pollution control devices on them, before selling a house.

Carla Walecka, head of the Realtors Committee on Air Quality advising the agency, said the home sale provision could snarl sales in western Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

“Point of sale enforcement is the slowest, most inefficient method that the district could choose to reduce fine particles emitted by older wood stoves and fireplace inserts,” Walecka said. The approach would “complicate tens of thousands of property transfers” in an already cooling market, she said.

Board members said it was vital to take every step necessary to clear the region’s air, the worst in the nation.

“Air pollution has created a silent epidemic responsible for up to 5,400 premature deaths each year” in Southern California, said William Burke, board chairman of the agency that oversees air quality in L.A. and Orange counties and portions of Riverside and San Bernardino counties. “We must go beyond business-as-usual solutions to achieve healthful air for Southland residents.”

The fireplace regulations as currently proposed would reduce a small portion — an estimated 7 tons a day on average — of the 192-ton-a-day reductions in nitrogen oxides necessary to bring the region into compliance with the federal Clean Air Act. Nitrogen oxides are a key ingredient in both smog and particulate pollution.

Burke and other board members said they had been ordered by the California Air Resources Board to develop regulations on commercial charbroilers and fireplaces and were required to do so under state law because other air districts have done so, including the San Joaquin, Sacramento and Bay Area districts.

Burke said he thought public attention to and dismay over the fireplace portions of the mammoth plan were “misplaced. This document is 1,600 pages long, and they want to focus on fireplaces…. We’re at a crossroads here on public health.”

The plan approved Friday also contains requirements for reducing soot and other pollutants from cars, trucks, refineries and other industrial sources. Local officials said these measures would do far more than fireplace restrictions and urged the state and federal government to join the agency in pushing for even more aggressive reductions in those areas.

Still, Burke said, it’s tough asking ordinary people to make changes that hit close to home to protect the larger environment.

“I got a text message from my [business] partner in the middle of the meeting saying ‘Save My Fireplace,’ ” laughed Burke. “Now that’s intense lobbying.”

janet.wilson@latimes.com

5 Comments on A new fireplace in your plans? You might want to rethink that

  1. This is INSANE! I will not bow down to yet another crazy, knee-jerk reaction to this “Global Warming” panic. Most people who are content to hear buzz words bandied about will no doubt follow along with the plan to further restrict thier rights.
    If you want to block up your fireplace and become further dependant on Special Interest and the Electric company who are now trying to adopt a plan to force you to place an energy restrictor on your home, go ahead.
    I will continue to use my fireplace until I am fined. After that I will switch from wood to coal and start burning tires.
    If Kalifornia continues to attempt further restrictions on people they can expect further blowback from the populace.
    If these knuckleheads are so worried about the planet, tell them to start dealing with the environmental disasters caused by India and China.

  2. Ha, ha, ha. That’s good one, Bruce. Yeah, I think I’ll stop breathing. Like polution control, breathing should be voluntary. Thanks!

  3. More big brother nonsense. Ginger, if the smoke bothers you move…or don’t breathe.

  4. With all due respect to a Christmas Eve fire, we all need to do things differently than we’ve done before. I don’t have respiratory problems, but I feel I am adversely affected by wood smoke in the air. I’d rather it wasn’t there. Why should those who want a wood fire not be required to install a filter to keep the smoke from my lungs? That just makes sense to me.

  5. This is a ridiculous way to continue allowing industry to pollute without consequence and to force individuals to sacrifice with NO meaningful results. The combined soot output from all woodstoves and fireplaces is roughly 3% of the total soot output in the area. Let’s see a 90% reduction in industrial and automotive pollution before we start disallowing the Christmas Eve family fire.
    People and fragile ecosystems in the Inland Empire contend with Los Angeles’ outrageous amount of garbage, sewage and poisoned air, and now DWP and Villaraigosa are also trying to get them to accept destruction of their nature preserves to run enormous transmission lines across them to feed the greedy Angelenos so they won’t have to become sustainable here, by, for example, using solar power. It is also MUCH colder inland, and many forms of heating (such as natural gas) are not even available to many residents who use woodstoves. So why is it that the Inland Empire has to keep paying the cost for lazy Los Angeles’ polluting ways? It is not “Los Angeles’ back yard,” as Villaraigosa refers to it – it is a separate collection of communities.
    Let’s see Industry clean up its act, and Los Angeles use its enormous tax base to develop sustainable infrastructure within its own borders. Sure, some of the biggest “donors” and “lobbyists” will not be pleased, but last time I checked, our government was supposed to work for the people, not for developers and polluting corporations.

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