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Stove fair scheduled Saturday

| June 15, 2005 12:00 AM

Eligible low-income households in the Libby area are being encouraged to participate in a wood stove changeout campaign scheduled to kick off with a fair at the Memorial Center from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 18.

The program is aimed at helping the Libby area meet recently tightened federal air quality standards by replacing old, dirty-burning stoves with new stoves that are certified by the Environmental Protection Agency to burn more cleanly. Eligible homeowners will receive a free replacement stove installed in place of their old stove. New stoves produce almost 70 percent less smoke and reduce the amount of firewood needed by around 30 percent.

The Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association has donated 300 new stoves for the program, along with associated materials and cash adding up to more than $1 million in assistance, said program coordinator Jerry Marquez of the Lincoln County Environmental Health Department.

"I can't thank HPBA enough for their support and their generous contribution to Libby," Marquez said.

Nearly 800 letters were sent to area residents enrolled in the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program and to Head Start families. General public assistance recipients are also eligible but were not mailed letters; the letters are available at the public assistance office, however.

Eight different stove models will be on display at the fair. A presentation at 9:30 a.m. will provide specific information about the changeout program.

People attending the fair are asked to bring a copy of the letter they received, if they received one, along with proof of eligibility for LIEAP, Head Start or public assistance. They are also advised to

know the square footage of their home so a properly sized stove can be found for their needs.

Eligible people who rent homes heated by wood stoves are encouraged to attend along with low-income homeowners. Landlords will be required to make a $500 co-payment for stove replacement, however.

"If you're a renter and you're on LIEAP, come on down," Marquez said.

The Libby area was listed last December as a non-attainment area under new federal air quality standards governing smaller particles, known as PM-2.5, than previous PM-10 standards. A study has shown smoke from wood stoves to be the major component in local air pollution.

Federal law requires a control plan to be adopted within three years.

This year's low-income stove changeout program is part of a two-year plan. Next year's efforts will focus on the estimated 900 to 1,200 non-certified stoves in households not meeting the low-income criteria for this year's program. The amount of cost, if any, to be passed along to the homeowner will depend on the level of funding obtained from grants, federal appropriations and other sources. On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies passed a spending bill for next year that includes $1 million for the Libby stove changeout program along with $77 million in other Montana projects.

More information on the stove program is available online at www.lincolncountymt.us/woodchangeout or by calling Marquez at 293-7781 extension 212 or emailing him at jmarquez@libby.org .