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Utah lawmakers endorse wood-burning stove conversions

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Color Country Interagency Fire managers will rescind fire restrictions on unincorporated private lands, state lands and federally administered public lands in southwest Utah on Monday.

A Senate committee Monday endorsed a bill that would provide $14 million in funding to incentivize people along the Wasatch Front to transition from wood-burning stoves to natural gas appliances. Wood smoke makes up 15 percent of area pollution.

Pavel Klimenko, Adobe Stock

SALT LAKE CITY — A $14 million effort to help rid the Wasatch Front of wood smoke cleared a Senate committee on Monday and now goes to the full Senate.

HB357 by Rep. Timothy Hawkes, R-Centerville, is designed to reduce wood smoke pollution along the Wasatch Front in the areas where wintertime inversions drive unhealthy air quality that violate federal clean air standards.

Hawkes says wood smoke is about 15 percent of the pollution problem during the winter.

Eligibiity for the funding would be determined based on income, how dependent a household is for wood burning as a source of heat and residency in nonattainment areas.

Bryce Bird, director of the Utah Division of Air Quality, said any time the division has offered financial incentives for conversions to natural gas, the money is quickly used up.

The last time, as an example, the application window closed in as little as five hours.

Todd Bingham, who chairs the Utah Air Quality Policy Board, said Hawkes' bill was the No. 1 priority and is on Utah Gov. Gary Herbert's $100 million wish list for air pollution strategies.

The money, if approved by the Legislature, is a one-time expenditure.