(KCPW News) A bill that would restrict wood burning in Utah passed the House on Thursday afternoon.
HB 154, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Patrice Arent, aspires to educate the public about the impact wood burning has on Utah’s air quality, and it sets up a program to help residents with wood-burning stoves transition to a cleaner fuel source, such as natural gas.
Republican Rep. Ed Redd spoke in favor of the bill on the House floor.
“Converting stoves from wood burning to natural gas, depending on the kind of stove you have, it gives an amazing improvement in the amount of emissions per heated home,” said Redd.
Republican Rep. Ronda Menlove of Box Elder County raised concerns regarding those who rely on wood-burning as a primary source of heat. She was skeptical that transitioning those households to natural gas would be as easy as advertised.
“I think this is a much more complicated issue than we’re making it,” Menlove said. “And yes, I understand along the Wasatch Front this is a big issue. But I need to let you know that there are other citizens living in this state who feel differently, and I believe that their voice needs to be heard.”
Arent acknowledged Menlove’s concerns, but she noted that her bill would not make switching to a cleaner fuel source mandatory for households in select “sole source” areas.
“[HB 154] is offering those homeowners on the sole source list the option if they would like to convert,” Arent said. “And as the Division of Air Quality has been interviewing these people, and they would like to. They just can’t afford to.”
Only a little over 200 households depends on wood-burning as their sole source of heat in the winter, but the resulting air pollution is disproportionately higher than almost any other source in Utah.
With a vote of 43-28, HB 154 moves to the Senate next. If it passes there, Governor Gary Herbert has already indicated that he supports wood burning legislation, and it’s likely that he’d sign the bill into law.