Almost exactly a year ago I told you about yet another effort by bureaucrats obsessed with controlling our lives (When Fireplaces are Outlawed, only outlaws will have fireplaces) - in this case the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) and their 'Check Before You Burn' Initiative. That blog and subsequent article burned up a lot of people, including a spokehole for the SCAQMD who called me to point out some inaccuracies in my blog.
The inaccuracies were predicated on information available from the SCAQMD at the time and had to do with the scope of the ban. At the time the only published 'exemptions' to the ban were people living above 3,000 foot elevation who relied exclusively on wood heaters as a heat source. I had pointed out that there are many who live below 3,000 elevation who have similar constraints including many elderly and fixed income who utilize it as their only heat source, or those who relied on wood as a primary heat source based on their ability to pay for alternative sources like electric or gas, or those who live in areas where the natural gas alternative is not available. I was told that individual exemptions might apply to them. Whoohoo!
I also questioned their claim that fireplaces in the 4 county area emit more pollution than all the power plants in the Southland. They legitimized that claim because most of our local plants are either nuclear or gas fired. Those may emit more pollution but not the type of small particulate pollution (PM 2.5) that is their goal with this ban. And never mind that a good chunk of our power is imported from Arizona, where coal fired plants are the norm - by their statistics they can honestly say that's not a California problem.
So the fact that 95+% of our particulate pollution is derived from other sources like factory, diesel, auto and power plant emissions, SCAQMD is pushing ahead with their plans and have announced the beginning of their 2011-2012 ban season citing the 'fact' that an estimated 5,000 people a year die prematurely from particulate pollution in this region. Really? Is this statistic spun from the same fertile minds that estimate that 5 or 5.5 or 6 (depending on which of their sources you read) tons of soot a day are produced by fireplaces? And, according to their website, those averages can spike to as much as 10 tons a day in the winter 'when people are more likely to use their fireplaces'. Really?
So apparently even during the 8 months of summer we have here, people are still using their fireplaces to produce 5 or more tons of soot a day? I know afer sweating through a 110 day, there's nothing I enjoy more than curling up with a cold beer in front of a warm fire - it's an ambience thing. Do these people even proofread the crap they post on their own website?
Doesn't matter. Don't confuse us with facts and don't ask questions we prefer not to answer. From now through the end of February, just comply. What happens if you don't and your neighbor calls to report wood smoke coming from your fireplace? I'd start by kicking your neighbors butt, because you may be fined $50 for the first offense, $150 for a 2nd and $500 thereafter, although the AQMD says they would 'probably' warn you first and just send you a little brochure about the hazards of wood smoke.
As an asthmatic myself, I have a keen appreciation for clean air and the necessity to do all we can to achieve clean air goals. But I question whether criminalizing the use of fireplaces and encouraging neighbors to rat out neighbors who do is the intent of federal clean air legislation or just another California wing-nut knee-jerk. I don't believe for a minute that this over-reaching BS is necessary or effective BUT IT'S THE LAW. So just be a good little doo-bee and do what they tell you.
You'll need to go online every day (www.aqmd.gov) to check your region for no-burn advisories. If you don't have an internet machine in your home, you need to call every day (866-966-3293). You can also get tethered to the AQMD by signing up for a daily email or twitter notification by visting www.airalerts.org.
In the event of a no-burn advisory in your immediate area, the AQMD has approved the following non-polluting source of heat for you and your family. Gather round, kiddies. This has been a public service announcement.