Why does the state hate woodstoves?

By Baker City Herald Editorial Board October 18, 2013 10:07 am

We thought Oregon’s offensive against woodstoves reached the apex of its lunacy back in 2009, when the Legislature passed a law that prohibits people from selling a home that contains a stove that isn’t certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

We were wrong.

Now, it seems, not even that coveted EPA certification, which was supposedly so vital four years ago, no longer is sufficient.

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has joined officials from six others states in filing a lawsuit against the EPA, claiming the agency has failed to adequately limit air pollution produced by new woodstoves.

You read that correctly: New woodstoves, not those old, uncertified smoke-belchers that are the target of the 2009 law (which is still in effect, by the way).

In other words, no woodstove meets muster with the guardians of Oregon’s pure air.

We like clean air, too.

But the evidence that smoke from woodstoves poses a significant risk to the clarity of Oregon’s atmosphere seems to us too scanty to justify spending tax dollars to sue a federal agency (which, of course, will use more tax dollars to defend itself).

“Smoke from residential woodstoves pose a real threat to air quality, in rural Oregon and the Portland area,” Rosenblum said in a press release.

Except statistics from another state agency — the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) — suggest that Rosenblum is exaggerating this threat.

Just two Oregon cities don’t meet federal air quality standards — Klamath Falls and Oakridge.

Neither could fairly be described as being in “the Portland area.”

Although no statewide survey exists, we’re confident in saying that Baker City ranks above average among Oregon cities in the percentage of our homes heated in part by woodstoves.

Yet according to DEQ, Baker City’s air was rated as “good” on 324 days in 2012, and as “moderate” on 26 (15 days were missing).  What with our climate, we’d wager quite a lot of wood was burned on many of those “good” days. The rating scale includes six categories, of which good is the best and moderate the second-best. Baker City hasn’t had a single day at even the third level (“unhealthy for sensitive groups”) since 2008.

Oregon officials admit that EPA-certified stoves produce about 70 percent less pollution than uncertified models. The state’s own data prove that the current standards, with but two exceptions, protect our air. There’s no need to get publicly paid lawyers involved.