In June and July, the wood stove industry, the Hearth, Patio and Barbeque Association (HPBA), presented a “three pillar proposal” to each of our three municipal councils and our regional district board.
If implemented, their proposal will facilitate continued wood burning in our communities for many decades to come.
The HPBA presentations were another step in their months-long targeted campaign against local ‘no new installation’ bylaws passed by our municipalities. Since last fall, HPBA has invested thousands of dollars in an extensive ad and lobbying campaign, called “Overturn the Ban”, often using misleading information which annoyed local leaders.
At each presentation, HPBA’s delegation consisted of six people: one from our area; four from other parts of Canada, and one from the very powerful US HPBA.
What wood stove industry is proposing
In the presentations to our local governments, HPBA proposed a three pillar approach:
- Create a sustainable, dry and seasoned wood supply (by establishing a industry financed woodlot to sell seasoned firewood);
- Implement a targeted wood stove exchange program (including a return to publicly-funded rebates for new wood stoves); and
- Implement public education and training programs (to teach people how to use their wood stoves).
Are these solutions?
While these proposals on the surface appear to be aimed at helping reduce wood smoke in our area, they would in fact ensure that wood burning will be in our communities for many more decades to come as the proposed wood lot would cost “hundreds of thousands of dollars” and any new stove installations will be around for at least 20-30 years. The goal of transitioning away from biomass burning in more populated areas, as is being discussed at our local Airshed Roundtable, would be very difficult to achieve in the face of such investments.
Additionally, HPBA’s implementation of the three pillar proposal appears to be conditional on the withdrawal of the ‘no new installation’ bylaws. HPBA noted in their presentations that these bylaws send a negative signal to possible investors in the woodlot and explicitly called for them to be revoked. As attacking the bylaws with the ‘Overturn the Ban’ campaign didn’t work, it seems they are now trying to get rid of the bylaws by using the wood lot as a carrot.
Keep in mind that HPBA’s campaign and presentations have occurred while this national group has a representative on our “local” Airshed Roundtable, an initiative that is supposed to be collaboratively drafting an airshed management strategy.
Why here and nowhere else?
HPBA is apparently not involved in any other airshed process in the province. We believe this is likely because no other areas have passed ‘no new installation’ bylaws. HPBA is investing so much time and money (and even involving in their US organization) here as they do not want these bylaws to set a precedent for other communities.
As long as “solutions” in other areas promote replacing old stoves with new ones, often with taxpayer-funded incentives, it appears HPBA has seen no need to get further involved as they are guaranteed increased sales.
BCA request to elected leaders
After the presentations were all done, Breathe Clean Air wrote to our elected leaders to request:
that our local governments do not make any commitments, or indications of support, for industry’s proposals while the Roundtable process is underway. To do so, without hearing from other members of the Roundtable, undermines this collaborative process.
In particular, one of the draft goals of the Roundtable is to transition away from biomass heating systems in populated areas. We are very concerned that the HPBA proposals will severely constrain the ability to achieve this goal.
We are also very concerned that HPBA is looking to get taxpayer dollars to support new rebates and likely also to support any ‘better burning’ education initiatives. (Please see our full letter for more details on our concerns).
Both heartening and disheartening responses
Breathe Clean Air was pleased that no municipality appeared willing, at least in the discussions following the presentations, to withdraw their ‘no new installation’ bylaws.
However, some elected leaders did voice strong support for the three pillar proposal, without any consideration of the Roundtable process.
Additionally, after writing the letter, we learned that the Cumberland Council had already unanimously passed a motion on June 28th referring the HPBA proposal to the Roundtable (as was appropriate) but with the added “with the recommendation to support the Association’s three pillars of sustainable, dry and seasoned wood supply for clean burning, general and targeted wood stove exchange program, and comprehensive public education.”
This statement of support by Cumberland, in absence of discussion with any other Roundtable members or consideration of how it might impact the Roundtable’s continued work, was disheartening to say the least.
What you can do to help
The wood stove industry lobby is well-resourced and vocal, so people concerned about wood smoke pollution need to keep writing and speaking to their representatives.
Ask them, at minimum, ask them to keep the ‘no new installation’ bylaws in place and to not act on or support industry’s proposals in any way at this time (see our list of emails in this WORD DOC). They should be respecting the Roundtable process they set up, and are participating in, and not act on industry’s proposals independently.
Please also voice strong support for the draft Roundtable goal of transitioning homes in populated areas away from biomass burning and encourage our governments to take meaningful action on this goal as soon as possible.