Salt Lake refineries, nonprofit group launch effort to replace wood stoves to improve air quality


(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Governor Gary Herbert announces the UCAIR program that allows for the giving away of 80 new gas stoves to Utahns willing to surrender a wood-burning stove or fireplace. The announcement took place in the rotunda of the State Capitol, Wednesday, November 1, 2017.

Wasatch Front residents can vie for a limited number of vouchers to help pay for a cleaner-burning fireplace this year, thanks to a perhaps unexpected partnership between two of Utah’s refineries and a nonprofit focused on air quality.

The program, which was announced Wednesday by Gov. Gary Herbert, will make 80 vouchers available to residents willing to replace a wood-burning stove or fireplace.

The vouchers will cover $1,000 toward the purchase of a new natural gas stove or fireplace, which would typically cost $3,000 to $4,000, said Thom Carter, executive director of the Utah Clean Air Partnership, or UCAIR. The nonprofit, which focuses on building ties among environmental advocates, government agencies and local businesses, will facilitate the wood-stove exchange program. Applications are available at UCAIR.org.

If applicants have a qualifying wood stove or fireplace, a participating vendor will help them select a new appliance, Carter said. Applicants will get a $1,000 discount after providing proof that their old wood-burning devices have been removed and destroyed.

Chevron and Andeavor, formerly known as Tesoro, each provided $50,000 donations to fund the vouchers. The Eccles Foundation provided additional funding for promotional materials, Carter said.

Tyler Kruzich, a spokesman at Chevron’s Salt Lake-area refinery, said the 80 vouchers are potentially just the beginning. If the program is well-received, he said, Chevron stands to donate more money to the exchange program next year.

Herbert heralded the exchange as the “Utah way” to address the state’s ongoing struggles with air pollution. He called the wood-stove exchange a common sense solution that did not require a government mandate or taxpayer funding.

“Today is also a call to action,” he said, “an invitation, really, to say, ’I can make a difference. I can make a choice to trade out a wood stove for a gas fireplace.’”

Burning wood has a disproportionate impact on Utah’s air quality, Herbert said. Communities on the Wasatch Front are considered “serious nonattainment” areas by the Environmental Protection Agency due to their decadelong inability to meet federal standards for small particulate pollution. These particles tend to build up in the state’s populated valleys during inversions that occur most winters.

One wood stove, the governor said, contributes as much small particulate pollution as 90 SUVs. A gas fireplace emits 95 percent fewer emissions, he said.

Burning wood or other solid fuels is banned on the Wasatch Front during inversions, but research suggests few Utahns abide by this rule. Previous attempts to ban wood-burning appliances from Wasatch Front homes have failed and led to state laws that bar regulators from issuing such restrictions.