Chico has new burn rules

Programs are voluntary and may not do the job

The effort to reduce dangerous fine-particulate matter in the air generated by wood burning took a small step forward last Thursday (Oct. 23), when the county Air Quality Management District’s board voted to implement new educational and voluntary no-burn-days programs in the Chico area. The focus is on Chico because that is where the highest levels of pollution are, thanks to winter-time inversion layers.

The proposal would rename the existing “Don’t Light Tonight” program to “Check Before You Light” and involve better forecasting of the inversions and notification asking for compliance.

Chicoan Luke Anderson, an air-quality activist, urged the board to make no-burn days mandatory, not voluntary, noting the much greater success of such laws. That’s the only way to bring down pollution levels sufficiently in the next three years to avoid being forced to take stiffer measures by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, he said. He noted also that a recent report had determined that there are 27,000 asthmatics in Butte County.

The AQMD is considering a mandatory ban, but if approved it wouldn’t take effect until next winter. It is also working on new rules designed to replace old wood heaters with new, EPA-certified ones.