Outcome of Valley’s newest wood-burning rule looking promising so far

Back on September 19, 2014 I put up the post: “The Valley’s newest wood-burning rule: more health-protective or what?!

In that post I offered, “If you remember from my earlier post ‘Tighter restrictions on wood-burning in Valley could make for cleaner winter air,’ I spelled out the specifics as to how the rule could work.

Fireplace_Burning[1]“‘The air district may decide to tighten wood-burning restrictions making it illegal to burn wood in either a fireplace or woodstove whenever PM 2.5 concentrations are expected to rise above the 20-micrograms-per-cubic-meter-of-air level. The exception: for those with federally certified wood-burning appliances and for residents whose living spaces lack a connection to a natural gas line and therefore rely on a wood-fire for heat instead, for both, under the proposed new rule, via a special permit, wood-burning above the daily 20-micrograms-per-cubic-meter level up to 65 micrograms per cubic meter inclusive would be allowed. Above 65 micrograms, all burning would be prohibited.’”

“I also mentioned that ‘In the Valley during wintertime … as much as 30 percent of fine particulate pollution can be tied to residential wood-burning activity, … .’”

In case you’re wondering which air district and rule, the former is the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and the latter, Rule 4901.

Here is some of what the air district wrote regarding the rule in its “Report to the Community: 2014-15 Edition” annual report.

On this in the “Message from the Air Pollution Control Officer” section, Air Pollution Control Officer and Executive Director Seyed Sadredin writes:

“As we look back at 2014, the adoption and implementation of the new residential wood burning program was, by far, the most significant legislative action taken by the Board. The amendments achieve huge reductions in dangerous wood smoke emissions by significantly curtailing the use of older, dirtier devices, while rewarding Valley residents who have invested in cleaner wood-burning units with more days when they can use their devices. The District also invested more than $6 million to assist in Valley residents’ transition to cleaner devices. The rule and incentive program continue to be one of the least costly and most health-protective measures, reducing pollutants when and where most needed.”

So, how effective has the rule been in improving the quality of Valley air between Nov. 1, 2014 and Feb. 28, 2015 when the rule was in effect, that is, compared to when the rule was not in force – that would be for the same period one year earlier. Has it made a difference in terms of winter Valley air improvement? Incidentally, for the 2015-2016 wood-burning season the rule in the Valley goes into effect beginning tomorrow.

Here are some representative numbers:

Before current rule (Nov. 1, 2013 – Feb. 28, 2014):

  • Good air days = 3
  • Moderate air days = 46
  • Unhealthy air days = 71
  • Total non-good (moderate and unhealthy combined) air days = 117

With current rule in force (Nov. 1, 2014 – Feb. 28, 2015):

  • Good air days = 8
  • Moderate air days = 56
  • Unhealthy air days = 56
  • Total non-good (moderate and unhealthy combined) air days = 112

This doesn’t tell you all you need to know.

For example, the good air-quality average – and we’re talking for fine particulate matter pollution (PM 2.5) for the Nov. 1, 2014 to Feb. 28, 2015 period was 9.96 micrograms per cubic meter of air, while the good air-quality average for the Nov. 1, 2013 to Feb. 28, 2014 period was 9.93 micrograms per cubic meter.

Meanwhile, for the period between Nov. 1, 2014 and Feb. 28, 2015, the moderate air-quality average was 24.08 micrograms per cubic meter compared to the 24.72 micrograms per cubic meter for the Nov. 1, 2013 to Feb. 28, 2014 period.

Furthermore, between Nov. 1, 2014 and Feb. 28, 2015, the air-quality average for unhealthy air was 55.75 micrograms per cubic meter. This compares to a Nov. 1, 2013 to Feb. 28, 2014 air-quality unhealthy-air average of 59.21 micrograms per cubic meter.

And, finally, combining the moderate and unhealthy air-quality averages, for the period from Nov. 1, 2014 to Feb. 28, 2015, the, what is herein being referred to as the “non-good air-quality average,” it was 39.91 micrograms per cubic meter versus the non-good air-quality average for the time between Nov. 1, 2013 and Feb. 28, 2014 which weighed in at 45.65 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

The data1 clearly show that during the time the new wood-burning rule was in effect, there were more good and more moderate, but fewer unhealthy and fewer total non-good air-quality days than there were during the period when the new wood-burning rule was not in force.

Regarding all of the “air-quality averages” data, with the exception of the good category, the air fared better pertaining to the pollutant PM 2.5 during the period when the new rule was in effect compared to when it was not. With regard to the good air-quality average, it was close.

So, maybe something can be said for this new rule.

At this point it may be too early to draw any type of definitive conclusion, though the data does look promising so far.


  1. California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board, AQMIS2 San Joaquin Valley Air Basin, Daily Average PM25 at Highest Site, for years 2013-2015.

– Alan Kandel

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