By ABBY SOUZA
County residents may breathe a little easier thanks to action taken yesterday by the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors.
The board unanimously approved a program to cut emissions from wood burning stoves.
Air Pollution Control Officer Gary Caseri brought the "The Old Smoky Stove Rebate Program" to the board, which doubles as the county Air Pollution Control Board.
The program, to start July 1, is aimed at encouraging county residents to replace older, inefficient wood burning stoves. Under the plan, the county would pay one-third of the costs (up to $500) of new, cleaner burning, Environmental Protection Agency- approved stoves.
With $66,900 plus interest to spend on this project, the county could replace more than 130 stoves.
Funding for the project comes from $14.1 million the California State Air Resources Board distributed to mitigate emissions from sources like diesel generators. The money was part of the state's 2001-02 budget.
The county Air Pollution Control District's share of the money, $65,156, has been in a trust fund to gain interest until a use for it was decided.
To qualify for the rebate program, any new wood, pellet, gas, electric or oil stove or insert must replace a non-EPA-certified wood burning stove or fireplace insert. The replacement must also have been purchased between July 1, 2003, and June 30, 2004. Electric heaters do qualify for the rebate, but installation will not be considered when calculating the rebate amount.
Supervisor Dick Pland was especially happy with the requirement that the new stove be bought from a Tuolumne County vendor.
"Good for you guys," he told Caseri.
Still, the county counsel's office was directed to look into whether this sort of requirement can legally be made.
To further reduce the amount of emissions in the county, Caseri also proposed that the Air Pollution Control District give $8,000 to the U.C. Cooperative Extension Master Gardener composting program.