Wood Burning Ban

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[WWW]City of Davis Wood Burning Program

On Tuesday, October 23, 2012, the City Council unanimously passed a Wood Burning Ban pilot project, to begin November 1, 2012 and end on March 1, 2013. (The city has given this project the unfortunate name, "Pilot Mandatory Wood Burning Program"). Residents who burn on "curtailment days," also called "no-burn days," (as designated by the city, when PM2.5 particle counts reach 25 micrograms per cubic meter or higher) and who receive complaints from neighbors could be fined by the city up to $100 for the first offense, though the council stipulated in the ordinance that the first infraction, at least, should result in only a warning. Further offenses could bring even higher fines. Had this ordinance been in effect in 2011-2012, there would have been about 15-20 curtailment days. In 2013, no-burn days were declared on Nov. 23, Dec. 3, Dec. 4, Dec. 11, Dec. 19, Dec. 28, Jan. 3-5, Jan. 7, and Jan. 16-19, for a total of fourteen no-burn days.

There are exemptions for residents who use EPA Phase II-certified wood-burning devices and those who burn manufactured logs in stoves or in open-hearth fireplaces, as long as they don't emanate visible smoke. Low-income residents can apply to the city for the right to burn on no-burn days.

Complaints about burning on no-burn days can be made online [WWW]here (the preferred method) or by calling 530-757-5686. You can find out whether a given day is a no-burn day by going to [WWW]this webpage.

Media coverage about the passage of the pilot program is [WWW]here and [WWW]here.

See also Don't Light Tonight.

History

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A wood burning ban was debated (August-December 2008) at the City Council level. The Council discussed the recommendations from the Natural Resources Commission and City staff at their [WWW]meeting on Tuesday, January 6, 2009. They decided to postpone adopting recommendations until more data on local health effects and smoke behavior was available. A study conducted by UC Davis' DELTA Group from December 2008 through February 2009 showed that Davis's air quality is "well below" the federal mandate for clean air. In September 2009, a voluntary no-burn policy was adopted. Forecasted no-burn days will be posted on the [WWW]city's website and on the [WWW]Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District's website (also see the latter site for email notifications).

However, some are still concerned about the effects that residents' fireplaces could have on the air quality of their immediate neighbors and think that this "nearest-neighbor" impact is the cause of the health problems reported by Davisites. In Fall 2009 through Winter 2010, the DELTA Group monitored airborne pollutants in concentrated areas to see if correlations could be found with neighbors' chimney smoke. They asked residents to report air quality problems in their neighborhood to help with the data collection, which was done by calling the Public Works Department at 530-757-5686 or the air quality district at 800-246-3660, or online by using the [WWW]Citizen Request Manager. Provide the location of smoke, date and time it was detected, speed and direction of wind, the look and smell of the smoke, and the possible source. Again, this was to help with the data collection, and using a fireplace is not illegal (yet), so proponents said you should not think of this as snitching. The collection of unbiased information to define the situation is not a bad thing. The DELTA Group generally adds a recommendation to their reports.

Proponents of the ban have started a non-profit organization [WWW]Yolo Clean Air. Some argue that it's a load of hooey and that truckers and farmers have lobbyists while the average homeowner does not. Rice fields are not generally burned anymore, but other material like orchard prunings are often still burned. Another valid question specific to the local impact theory is that, as all activities have an impact on your direct surroundings, perhaps accidentally triggering asthma is an acceptable consequence best dealt with by neighbors following up and communicating with each other rather than a zero tolerance policy. Sending people with guns to each others houses to enforce demands rather than talking may eventually create a much much worse problem than the original issue.

Wood burning is well known to increase small particulate pollution, even if it's current contribution in Davis is unknown. Many cities and states have differing regulation regarding air quality and wood burning. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also has a national "Burn Wise" [WWW]page that emphasizes the importance of burning the right wood, the right way, in the right wood-burning appliance to protect your home, health, and the air we breathe. Within this site you will find information for consumers to make informed decisions about what it means to burn wise. State and local agencies will discover ways to improve air quality in their communities through changeout programs and education. One of these change-out programs took place in Sacramento in 2005, resulting in replacement of older wood-burning stoves for newer, EPA certified ones.

A [WWW]regional "Basin Control Council" developed a smoke management plan that includes "Don't Light Tonight," a working system that advises the public when to burn and when to hold back through several avenues. The Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District, along with the Sacramento Metropolitan AQMD, coordinate and enforce these policies. The draft ordinance recommends reducing "allowable burn days" using a "wind speed methodology ... IN ADDITION" to that used for "Don't Light Tonight." so that Davis would be more restrictive and attempt to achieve lower pollution levels.

The Yolo-Solano AQMD [WWW]has an "incentive program to encourage home-owners to voluntarily replace their old appliances with cleaner burning EPA Phase II-certified appliances. These EPA-certified appliances are designed to significantly reduce the amount of particulate matter emitted into the air by causing wood to burn much more efficiently.” These "appliances" would not be exempted from the draft ordinance, and would be subject to a six-hour burning limit in any 24 hour period.

   1.  Wood burning will only be allowed on “Allowable Burn Days” defined as a forecasted
        average regional PM2.5 of 25 ug/m3 or lower and a forecasted average wind speed
        from 6 PM to midnight of 5 mph or greater.
   2. Wood burning will be allowed a maximum of 6 hours per day per residence and only
       burning of seasoned dry wood is allowed.
   3. Beginning March 1, 2010, wood burning is only allowed in EPA Phase II-Certified
       wood and pellet stoves and prohibited in fire places or non-EPA certified appliances.
   4. A one time permit is required (for law enforcement and educational purposes).

Comments:

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2008-12-18 23:09:00   I believe that, when educating adults to change behavior, emphasis on positive steps is MUCH more effective than making people feel bad and emphasizing negative (possible) consequences. In this respect, the proponents of this ordinance have given a template for what not to do — such as disparaging the response to "Don't Light Tonight." I've already heard and read comments from people who should be concerned about air pollution and are now feeling like use of their "appliances" is a way of saying "eff you" to people who want to interfere in their lives.

We invested in an EPA-certified stove for my house. Instead of feeling responsible and good after shelling out lots of money, I feel like I'm at risk of not being able to use what I invested in. I may or may not be contributing to someone's asthma. Perhaps the data presented will become more convincing to me, or perhaps further study will identify more significant sources of pollution.

Yolo Clean Air has run advertisements that include this gem: "[a]ll it takes is for one person to fail to [act] responsibly and a dangerous neighborhood condition could result, potentially sending an innocent party to the hospital in [...] distress." I, too, am concerned about the havoc automobiles can wreak!!! But is a ban on SUVs, and strong restrictions on other cars the solution? Perhaps, but it's going to take some time and persuasion before we legislate that! And that's why I support some change to existing regulations, but not the ordinance as proposed now. —DougWalter


2008-12-19 07:02:52   What about the issue of someone who's furnace breaks after 2011? Or the "taking" by the city of fireplaces without compensation? The whole approach seems wrong. —JasonAller



2009-01-04 21:40:37   Jason: You appear to be referring to the compensation of the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution: "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." There are two problems with using this argument here. One is that (assuming that the Fifth Amendment is the basis for your statement), your fireplace is not being "taken" at all, for public use or not. The other problem (even if you are not referring to the fifth amendment) is that if your argument were to hold true, then any restriction at all by the government on any use of property would be unconstitutional. For example, your neighbors could choose to build a landfill, power plant, jail, or anything that you might happen to consider undesirable or detrimental to your property values right next to your property and you would have no recourse. Likewise, the government would be unable to regulate the use of cars (speed limits would restrict use of your property), maintenance of airplanes (requiring maintenance would restrict how often a plane could fly, after all), or anything else. Even stock would be affected, since a new government law might change how a company could operate within the country, and the stock is your property after all. The government has, and has always had, the ability to restrict how property is used. Yes, it can't take the property away from you without paying you for it. But that's not what is happening here. While you may have bought your fireplace with the belief that you would always be able to use it without any restrictions, there are a great many restrictions that have been placed on many different kinds of property over the years by governments at all levels, including after their purchase, so this doesn't seem like a reasonable assumption to make. —IDoNotExist


2009-01-05 01:25:49   Ok. How does your view of "taking" hold up under the following examples?

1) You buy a product that is later legislated to be illegal because use of that product results in people dying rather frequently.
2) You buy a house, but the house is made from SuperAsbestos (much better than the regular stuff at causing cancer.) This material is found to be so lethal that anyone owning the house is required to move out immediately.
3) You buy some property. You intended to use the property for a certain use, but now that use is made illegal, so you can't.
4) Same as 3, but you didn't think of using the property for that use until after it became illegal, then discovered that you couldn't because it was already illegal.

Another twist on the "taking" idea. Suppose your neighbor starts polluting the air coming into your home with smoke or something else, thus preventing you from living there. Did the neighbor take your property? The result is the same - you can't use it for the thing you bought it for. But in this case, the entity preventing that use is the neighbor, not the government. If you argue that the neighbor is taking your property (which it seems to me that they are by your definition of taking), then shouldn't your neighbor be compensating you for taking your property (and do they then own it?!) If not, then how can it be taking your property when the government passes a law, but not when the neighbor does it? —IDoNotExist


2009-01-05 10:37:32   Well, let me give you an example. It used to be that people made home insulation out of asbestos. It had nice fireproof properties. The use of asbestos then became illegal because it was found to be unsafe. Properties containing asbestos are now not worth as much. Some properties were condemned because they had loose asbestos. Did someone take away the property? No.

When you purchase something, you are taking on some risk by buying it. No one guarantees the value or usefulness to you of your property (with the exception of warranties, or things like the CA lemon law.) You have no guarantee that the use of that property will not become illegal in the future. Whether or not the law making it illegal makes sense or is a good idea is a different question.

Continuing on the wood burning example, suppose that your neighbor developed asthma and discovered a health risk due to wood burning. Previously, you were not impacting them, but now you are. I think it's still your responsibility as the wood burner to mitigate the effects, because you are causing the health impact to them. It's your choice to burn wood. Its not their choice to have asthma. —IDoNotExist


2009-01-05 10:45:38   Another example. Various drugs that are now illegal used to be legal and common in the past. (See the real secret ingredient in Coca Cola, for example.) Those could be purchased legally before. For various reasons, those drugs became illegal, not just to use, but also to possess! While I'm not sure how people got rid of what they already owned, the government was not taking away the property. If it had, the government would then own those drugs. It was simply making it illegal to be in possession of them. Did people lose money on it? Sure. Did it violate the fifth amendment? Nope.

Another example: The federal government made analog TVs useless starting next month, at least unless you buy a digital tuner for it. Some people spent a lot of money on their analog TVs. The government didn't take away the TV - you can still use it for whatever you like. But you'll have to spend some money to use it as a receiver for digital over the air broadcasts. —IDoNotExist


2009-01-05 11:11:30   My whole problem with the justification of the ban from a medical point of view is that almost everything we do can, in some incidental way, harm others. If I own a dog, there is certainly plenty of opportunity for that to adversely affect others, from it attacking them (almost certainly my fault) to them having an allergic reaction (not really my fault). I disagree that this means that dogs should be outlawed, or that only certain kinds of dogs should be allowed. What it should mean is that everyone, not just the owner, takes care to minimize the possibility of a problem arising. I keep my dog on a leash, and people who know they are allergic stay away from it. In another example, some people are very, very allergic to peanuts, and can have serious medical problems from even the tiniest exposure. Does that mean that we should outlaw peanuts? Or just that I personally shouldn't be able to grow them in my yard? —JoePomidor


2009-01-05 12:39:15   I know people who are definitely affected by that sort of thing. One even has trouble breathing if someone sprays some perfume around them.

On the peanut example, you wouldn't need to ban peanuts. But there are lots of foods you can buy that have labels that say that the food was processed on a machine that also processes peanuts. Likewise, at some schools, kids are banned from bringing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to certain classrooms because exposure to peanuts could kill a kid in the class.

In the case of wood burning, there are quite a few reasons why someone might want to enact a ban that affect everyone:
-Increasesd CO2 and CO emmissions. Imagine how many cars it would take to emit the same amount of pollutants as one fire at home.

-The above contributes to global warming. Yeah, your individual fire doesn't contributed much, but put together, everyone's fires do. We're aware that lots of individual contributions are causing major changes to our environment. Expecting everyone to minimize their contributions individually clearly doesn't work. So some legislation is required.

-Pollution is particularly bad in the central valley. On a local level, this can help a lot with air quality for everyone. —IDoNotExist


2009-01-09 13:23:59   So, what happened at council? —BrentLaabs


2009-01-09 14:11:45   This issue is one of the biggest arguements against becoming a charter city, and giving the city council actual power of regulation. A bad response to a real (if not huge) problem. —RocksandDirt

**I'm pretty sure that what they are doing would be acceptable, but under a charter they would be able to use the same poor decision making in many more areas, that right now all they can do is decide how much to pay for. A Narrow charter would be a lovely idea, and is also (as you pointed out) unlikely to happen. —Rocksanddirt


2009-11-01 16:00:00 Keep in mind that air pollution in this valley is caused by agricultural burning and is also caused by diesel traffic on highway 80, there is no data that supports the conclusion that significant air pollution in town is caused by woodburning. —StevenDaubert


2010-12-09 06:53:30   Maybe the city can fix this: provide furnaces that are efficient- there are a lot of Davis residents who don't have the $ to replace their old clunker, inefficient furnaces, City of Davis raisies water rates without considering that not all of use can afford those rate hikes, at some level, people who lack resources might be considered. Liz —lizwise


2011-03-24 16:46:23   I am a coal burner myself.... —JoshLawson


Why don't the wood burners just look into smething that produces more heat, uses less wood, and keeps the outer environment cleaner overall due to basic physics... something like [WWW]http://www.texasfireframe.com/ or [WWW]http://www.radiantfiregrates.com/? Personally, I think it's silly in general as there is little, if anything, wrong with wood burning and it is much less harmful in every aspect than electrical or gas heat. — Wes-P


2012-12-01 10:06:32   It's becoming clearer and clearer why people in other states refer to California as "Kalifornia." Look at all the millions of other cities in the country where it's legal to use a fireplace (shudder... the horror, the horror). Where are all the residents choking, hacking and gagging from that awful fireplace pollution? Why don't they just make it illegal to get out of bed in the morning? —RonMorgan

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