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Replacement stove fair scheduled June 18

| May 12, 2005 12:00 AM

By BRENT SHRUM Western News Reporter

An industry-sponsored giveaway program aimed at replacing polluting wood stoves in low-income homes in the Libby area is scheduled to kick off with a stove fair on June 18 at the Memorial Center.

Backed by the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, the program is a response to the listing of the Libby area last December as a non-attainment area under new federal air quality standards. The new regulations govern 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. Local officials are hoping to solve the problem through a vigorous effort to install new wood stoves, certified by the Environmental Protection Agency as clean-burning, to replace older, dirtier, non-certified stoves.

A two-year stove replacement program is being planned, said county sanitarian Ron Anderson. This year's efforts will focus on replacing some of the most heavily polluting stoves with those that were donated. Eligibility for the program will be based on guidelines for federal assistance, including the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. In the case of low-income families who rent their homes and heat with wood, the landlord would be required to pay $500 for the replacement stove, Anderson said.

Qualified applicants will be able to view available stoves and make their selections at the June 18 stove fair.

A $100,000 grant from the EPA is expected to help fund the installation of the stoves, using local contractors. Additional cash assistance will be provided by the HPBA, Anderson said.

Plans are to expand the program next year to open up eligibility to all Libby-area residents. In addition to certified wood stoves, other heat sources such as pellet or propane stoves would be available as replacements. The goal is to obtain federal funding to provide vouchers to pay at least a portion of the cost of replacing the stoves. U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns has offered his support in finding funding.

"Our ultimate goal is to be able to cover the cost of the stove and the installation via a voucher," Anderson said.