From: Chico ER News – 10-22/2013
By STEVE SCHOONOVER-City Editor
Money to help replace as many as 600 older wood stoves in Butte County with newer, less polluting models may be coming, thanks to a legal settlement between three Mississippi firms and the Environmental Protection Agency.
As much as $600,000 could be coming to the county over a three-year period, with the first of the aid available as soon as December.
In February 2011, Mississippi-based PowerTrain Inc., Wood Sales Inc. and Tool Mart Inc. reached an agreement with the EPA to settle a claim that the companies had imported and sold more than 80,000 engines and other equipment that didn’t meet emission standards.
As part of the multi-million-dollar deal, PowerTrain and the others agreed to fund a stove swap-out program with the goal of eliminating 4,500 tons of emissions over a three-year period.
As the EPA cast about for an agency to implement that part of the settlement, the Butte County Air Quality Management District put together a program that fit the bill.
The EPA and PowerTrain liked Butte County’s proposal and the process has been moving forward for more than a year. All that’s needed now is final approval by the EPA, PowerTrain and the Air Quality District board.
“It looks really good at this point,” Butte County Air Control Officer Jim Wagoner said Monday.
If approved, the initial payment to the district would be $200,000, with another $20,000 for administrative fees. Wagoner said under a best-case scenario, that might be available in December.
People swapping out a non-EPA-certified wood stove for an EPA-approved wood stove could be eligible for a $1,000 voucher. The voucher for a new pellet or natural gas stove would be $1,750.
People meeting certain income requirements would be eligible for $3,000 vouchers, but those grants would be limited to 20 percent of the total.
It isn’t yet clear if money would be available for those putting an insert into an existing open fireplace. Wagoner said the Air Quality District has asked the EPA that question and is still awaiting an answer.
The amount of money coming in future years would depend on the mix of stoves that were swapped out.
Natural gas stoves, for instance, have negligible emissions. Only 375 older wood stoves would have to be replaced by gas to meet the emission-reduction target. If the swap was straight-across older wood stoves for newer wood stoves, 600 would have to be changed.
Approval of the plan is before the Air Quality District board during its meeting Thursday morning in the Chico City Council Chambers, 421 Main St.
The meeting starts at 10 a.m. unless the Butte County Association of Governments meeting that precedes it runs late.
Reach Steve Schoonover at 896-7750, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @ER_sschoonover.