In a comedy of errors, Rep Tammie Wilson waltzed state legislators into a pickle.
“Get a wood or coal boiler, like, with a state loan! Oops! Silly me! Forgot ’bout your gnarly air pollution. I mean, whatEVER! PURIFY the air with wood and coal boilers! Cut! Where’s my pickle? Ah, got it.” [plastic smile]
Representative Tammie Wilson (R-North Pole) introduced HB 35, Home Heating Conversion Loans, to offer homeowners $15,000 10-year, 1% interest loans to assist in converting to natural gas if that fuel becomes “available.” Problem is the details were left intentionally vague.
Barn door opens: statewide stampede of wood and coal boilers ensues.
$15,000 loans with E-Z terms for any type of heating system — including a Titan 2 coal boiler — will dash all hope of reducing air pollution in Fairbanks and North Pole and of meeting federal Clean Air Act standards for PM 2.5 attainment.
HB 35 is public health sabatoge.
Contact your Legislators:
- Tell them to oppose or amend HB 35, Home Heating Conversion Loans to prevent state loans from funding more wood or coal boilers.
- Support conversions to natural gas heaters but not more wood or coal boilers.
- Tell them why air pollution is a matter of life and safety for you.
- Also, please voice your support for funding for existing, positive programs including the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation and the Alaska Division of Public Assistance Heating Assistance Program [details below]
Contact Emails – share your concerns with all:
HB 35 sponsors:
Rep Tammie Wilson – House 2 <Representative.Tammie.Wilson@akleg.gov>,
Rep Steve Thompson – House 3 <Representative.Steve.Thompson@akleg.gov>,
Rep Pete Higgins – House 5 <Representative.Pete.Higgins@akleg.gov>,
Rep Doug Isaacson – House 1 <Representative.Doug.Isaacson@akleg.gov>,
Rep Scott Kawasaki – House 4 <Representative.Scott.Kawasaki@akleg.gov>,
Rep Mia Costello – House 20 <Representative.Mia.Costello@akleg.gov>
Rep Beth Kerttula – House 32 <Representative.Beth.Kerttula@akleg.gov>
Rep Peggy Wilson – House 33 <Representative.Peggy.Wilson@akleg.gov>
Rep Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins – House 34 <Representative.Jonathan.Kreiss-Tomkins@akleg.gov>
One member of the Interior Delegation has not sponsored HB 35:
Rep David Guttenberg – House 38 <Representative.David.Guttenberg@akleg.gov>
HB 35: Any Fuel, No Matter How Polluting
HB 35 loans will fund a “coal, wood or an outdoor boiler,” according Marissa Banks, legislative aide for Rep Doug Isaacson.
A tire-burning boiler could be accepted as long as it was “more efficient” than an existing system. The truth is, nothing in HB 35 or in state law prohibits burning tires, manure, animal carcasses, plastic, and creosote-treated power poles in a boiler. State regulations prohibit open burning #@*&, but not if you burn it in your boiler. Only after someone gets hurt is the burning of #@*& prohibited. Toxic smoke put you in the hospital? Ask DEC to file a public nuisance case and wait 4 1/2 years, just like Woodriver, the state’s first public nuisance case on smoke.
Any fuel or heating system will be accepted under HB 35 — no matter how polluting. Wood and coal boilers emit significantly more air pollution than other whole house heating systems using fuel oil, natural gas, or propane.
No neighborhood is safe. HB 35 applies statewide. Fairbanks and North Pole are the only areas in Alaska in violation of the federal Clean Air Act for fine particulate pollution (PM 2.5).
$15,000 is about double what you’d expect to pay to install a high-efficiency oil or gas furnace or boiler. The maximum loan, $15,000, is right in line with the cost of an outdoor wood or coal boiler. Is that why the loan cap is on steroids? [Compare costs for high-efficiency gas and fuel oil systems here.]
TWISTED Logic, False Promises
Rep Wilson offered legislators a panacea for better air: “An additional benefit of HB 35 will be the program’s effects on a community’s air quality…. By converting to cleaner heating systems, such as natural gas, the FNSB will be able to apply the loan program of HB 35 towards their required EPA state implementation plan to mitigate the existing air quality concerns.” [emphasis added] Rep Wilson Sponsor Statement for HB 35.
If YOU believe EPA signed off on this plan to “mitigate” serious air pollution with more wood and coal boilers, I have a bridge to sell you!
In describing her bill to the public, Rep Wilson adroitly omitted mentioning wood and coal boilers. “I could see people looking to doing gas, and you could be looking at people where it’s not available going to more efficient oil, biomass or even wood pellet heaters.” Rep. Wilson proposes heater conversion bill 1/25/2013 FDNM
No Efficiency Standard for Wood, Pellet, or Coal
HB 35 uses an “energy rater” to “determine whether improving or replacing the primary heating system of the home would increase the energy efficiency of the home.” This works when comparing gas or oil units. But as there’s no accepted standard for reporting the efficiencies of wood, coal, or pellet stoves or boilers, there’s no way to make an efficiency determination involving a wood, pellet, or coal device.
Efficiency of a gas or oil central heater is measured by annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE). The Federal Trade Commission requires new furnaces or boilers to display their AFUE so consumers can compare heating efficiencies of various models. Manufacturers of wood, coal, and pellet heating systems may tout energy efficiency, but there is no accepted standard for measuring their efficiency.
Manufacturers will say anything
“Breakthrough Performance… redefines the meaning of high-efficiency heating – converting up to 89% of the energy in wood fuel to usable heat in your home.”
“Less Work. Designed with you in mind, there is no need to split wood; high temperatures in the firebox eliminate build-up and reduce ash to amounts that require attention just once a month.” [Where did those pesky particles go?! Out the chimney!]
“Our Vision is…”zero visible emissions and reduced volatile organic compounds from the combustion of solid biofuels.”
Coal is the Goal, Not Energy Efficiency
Rep Wilson offered two similar bills in 2012. Neither passed.
The first, HB 313, would have provided $7,500 low-interest loans that could include “biomass” heating devices. The 2013 bill removed all restrictions on fuel type as long as it is “available.” FDNM coverage on HB 313: House critical of bill to offer grants for non-attainment home heating upgrades 3/22/2012 & Bill that would provide loans to help convert home heating systems 4/5/2012.
The second, HB 323, proposed $10,000 grants to homeowners in “a particulate matter nonattainment area” [FNSB is the only nonattainment area in Alaska] to install more efficient oil or gas heating systems and includes a definition of “efficient home heating system.” The 2013 bill does not include any definitions.
Positive Programs Worthy of Your Support
In the 2013 Capital Budget, Governor Sean Parnell requested over $50 million for the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, see Capital Budget SB 18. $20 million would fund home energy rebates up to $10,000 with no income limits. $31.5 million more would fund weatherization grants for homeowners and renters, free for those at or below income limits of $80,400 for FNSB household of 4. These smart programs improve the efficiency of the entire home, rather than just dropping a more efficient heating system into a house that leaks like a sieve.
Alaska Division of Public Assistance Heating Assistance Program: it is not clear that funding has been proposed to continue this program in 2013. High heating costs most significantly impact low-income residents.