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For the past two years the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has been funding a thousand dollar rebate to city residents who purchase an Environmental Protection Agency approved wood stove. The $35,000 Change Out program was the department’s effort to help resolve the wintertime air pollution problems in Salmon.

Salmon City Clerk Mary Benton told the November 1st meeting of the Salmon City Council that the program has been officially closed and that the $552 left over was given to a resident who recently purchased a new stove. She said that so far there is no word on the possibility of renewing the program and at the same time nothing has been said about not renewing it. She said that if it is renewed she would prefer it be offered for a shorter timeframe than two years because two years gives people too much time to put off making the decision.

Councilman Jim Bockelman is a member of the local Air Shed Advisory group and he said the last time the program was mentioned during one of the group’s meetings it sounded as if more funding is possible.

Benton said the Wood Stove Change Out program is a lot of work but is worth it and that personally, she would like to see the money it would cost to erect and maintain a digital air pollution sign being proposed for Main Street, go into funding for new woodstoves.

Council President Jim Baker said he would like to see the current mileage limit for the Change Out program expanded from five miles of the city to 10 or 15 miles. Benton said she has suggested that and there was no resistance to the idea. She said it all depends on, “If we get more funds.”

Based on public comments made to him Bockelman said he wanted to go on record by saying the city is not out to make residents get rid of woodstoves. He said, “That is not true.”

He went on to describe the city’s decision to work with the DEQ by way of the PM (particulate matter) Program as a way of avoiding having federal clean air regulations “…stuffed down our throat.” He emphasized the word “voluntary.” Bockelman cited the detailed PM Advance Overview which repeatedly uses the word “voluntary.” He said that might mean a resident’s decision to let a wood stove burn hotter on a bad-air day, thereby releasing less smoke. He said the DEQ program is about a community effort to try to reduce air pollution in the valley during the wintertime.

Councilman Russ Chinske voiced his support for efforts that are actually functional and said the Wood Stove Change Out is functional and does help. He said he hopes the DEQ gets the program back on board because it’s something that really does make a difference.

Bockelman said he will suggest that the PM Program/Advisory Group schedule evening meetings so more people can attend.

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