Room filled beyond capacity as citizens debate merits of banning wood burning in Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY – The second of seven planned public hearings on a proposal that would ban wood burning in Utah statewide during the winter months was held in Salt Lake City Thursday night, and it was standing-room only as residents packed the room.

The proposed ban would prohibit wood burning between November 1 and March 15 of each year. After residents at a meeting in Tooele County turned out to oppose the ban Wednesday night, Salt Lake County followed suit on Thursday.

The conference room at the Department of Environmental Quality in Salt Lake City was so full that some attendees had to stand in the hallway outside.

“My wood burning stove is my back-up plan for any personal, state or national crisis,” one attendee said while addressing the room. “Without it, I cannot be independent, self-sufficient or self-reliant.”

Another resident said pollution from vehicles, specifically diesel trucks, is a bigger problem, and that officials should address those concerns rather than wood burning.

"This little teeny ban that you're going to do is like swatting at mosquitoes when an alligator has your foot," Craig Logreen said.

Most of those who attended spoke against the ban, but there were a few who were in favor.

“As a pregnant woman living in the state with the highest level of autism, I have a very, very real connection with the clean air,” another attendee said. "I hear a lot of talk about people having the right to live as they see freely, what about my right, and every other person's right out there, to have a healthy child?"

Two doctors in attendance were among those who supported the ban, and one said wood smoke may have a much greater toxicity than cigarette smoke.

“Scientific studies show wood smoke does not disperse well, it penetrates other people’s homes very easily, and intense local hot spots of pollution are created,” Dr. Brian Moench said.

There are several more meetings planned, and people can also comment via email or via post. Click here for a schedule of the meetings and contact details for public comment.

26 comments

    • Monica

      Don’t you think that if there’s even a small chance that our high autism rates are linked to air pollution it’s worth taking it seriously. I have an autistic child and two children with asthma despite having no family history of asthma. I would ask you to carefully reconsider your stance. I am not necessarily a proponent of government involvement. Ideally people would consider how their actions affect the lives and health of those around them and voluntarily decide to not burn wood. Unfortunately, many people will only do so if they are forced into it. When it comes to matters of public health, we must consider the whole and not the individual. As I understand it, the state has a program in place to help people replace their wood burning fireplaces with gas. And when in comes to emergencies, I’m sure something could be worked out.

      • Kimberly

        All factors and theories should be meticulously researched where our health and that of our children is concerned, especially when there is a marked increase in any previously unexplained specific disability, disease or neurological/cognitive functional deficit. However, as to a wood burning ban, this would most likely cause the greatest strain on lower income individuals and families that need to use wood burning to heat their homes, or at the very least off-set some of the high heating costs incurred in the cold weather months, or they may not have sufficient funds to properly heat their home at all, or even pay for necessary needs such as food, gas for their vehicle, taxes on their property or even their mortgage. Perhaps rather than banning all wood burning, the County and Government could consider looking into something called Rocket Stove Mass Heater. There is plenty of information on these heaters that release next to no exhaust or pollutants because they are re-routed back through the fire a second time and the exhaust is all but burned off. They are efficient wood burners that use less wood, burn at a far higher temperature (which is how the exhaust is burned up inside the chamber before it heads up the stove pipe and the open air outside), their designs range from a simple (but very effective) DIY design to more elaborate configurations that include water heater capabilities. Information on these Rocket Stove Mass Heaters can be found all over the internet. The basic design is simple and easy for any DIYer and when you see how they work, you will understand how and why there is no exhaust to expel into and pollute the air. Just a thought.

    • Bruce

      Yeah Bob. You are way out of line! Have anything better to do than needlessly being abusive to a Pregnant Women rightly defending herself and her unborn baby? You owe her a big apology and a big thank you for standing up for clean air for you!

    • brian moench

      Bob, you can be excused for not knowing how air pollution contributes to autism and many other neurologic and brain disorders, because that’s not your area of expertise. But it is my area of expertise, and there is now substantial medical research showing that connection. So when you’re done being snarky and patting yourself on the back for what you don’t know, perhaps you could be persuaded to learn about it. UPHE is given a public seminar on how air pollution affects the brain, Jan. 29, at 7:00 pm at the SLC Main Library, 7:00 pm, 4th floor conference room.

  • Kim

    Go ahead and ban it! I don’t mind breaking a law that is born out of government over reach! Where in our Constitution does it give Government the right to have its fingers in absolutely every aspect of our lives?!?! I will not submit to tyranny!

  • monicakeele

    Majority rule only works if you’re also considering individual rights. Because you can’t have five wolves and one sheep voting on what to have for supper.

    Larry Flynt

    • Vic Steblin

      The Larry Flynt comment about 5 wolves against 1 sheep is better understood as “Majority rule doesn’t always work with individual rights. Consider five wolves and one sheep voting on dinner.” Just because wood burners vote 100% to keep burning does not mean that it is right, morally or even legally, for everyone.

  • Bruce

    Smoke from burning wood is very very bad for you. lern about it. Look it up on the American Lung Association web site: Lung.org and Utah Physicians For A Healthy Environment: UPHE.org We all need and want clean air to breathe

  • A

    I’m so glad people on the Wasatch front get to decide what is best for the entire state. Clearly us simple dumb folk livin in the sticks need you big city folk to tell us what’s best for all.

    Here I have eenvironmental suggestion for you guys. Carpool up and take the bus. Any multi passenger vehicular with less than two occupants gets an automatic fine.

    If we have to sacrifice you all should too.

  • Rick Larsen

    How about they fix our broken-down public transportation system? It’s more expensive to take UTA transit than it is to drive!

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