Residents in portions of Tacoma and Pierce County could be eligible for up to $8,000 in incentives and rebates to upgrade to energy-efficient heating devices and weatherize their homes.
Today, a consortium of public agencies and utility partners is launching the Tacoma-Pierce County Neighborhood Energy Efficiency and Wood Smoke Reduction Program. The focus is to offer financial incentives to replace old wood stoves and wood-burning fireplace inserts that spew unhealthy particulates into the air. The program will run through March 30, 2011, unless funds run out sooner.
“Our goal is clean air and warm homes,” said Craig Kenworthy, executive director of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, one of the program’s lead partners. “This program can help residents heat their homes more efficiently and with less pollution, for cleaner, healthier air in their homes and throughout their neighborhoods.”
The program seeks to reduce fine particle pollution (soot and smoke) in the Tacoma-Pierce County area. Smoke from wood fires is a leading cause of fine particle pollution in this area during winter months when people tend to light more fires at home.
“Public Health is part of this project because we want to prevent health problems,” said Steve Marek, director of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s Environmental Health Division. “Exposure to wood smoke pollution can cause harm because the fine particles are so small that they lodge deep in the lungs and can cause bronchitis, asthma attacks and even heart attacks and strokes.”
Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated portions of Tacoma and Pierce County as a “nonattainment” area for fine particle pollution, which means that pollution levels pose a health concern and exceed national air quality standards.
“This program directly affects our goal of building and sustaining livable communities,” said Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy. “We need to retain and recruit family-wage jobs to this region, and that will be hard to do if we continue to exceed air quality standards. This program provides an opportunity to help clean our air so we can keep showing people that Pierce County is an amazing place to live, work and play.”
Insulation measures will be evaluated in pre-1988 homes and, if necessary, brought up to current standards. Program participants may also take advantage of water heater and/or window replacement with any remaining individual incentives. Many of the program’s energy efficiency improvements are also eligible for partnering utility rebates and the federal energy tax credit.
Participation in the Neighborhood Energy Efficiency and Wood Smoke Reduction Program is limited to residents who live in seven ZIP codes in part of Tacoma and surrounding unincorporated Pierce County communities. These are 98404, 98408, 98409, 98444, 98445, 98446 and 98373 outside the City of Puyallup. Other restrictions apply. For eligibility requirements and details on how to participate, visit www.pscleanair.org/woodstove.
These seven ZIP codes are most impacted by the elevated pollution levels measured at the South L Street air-quality monitor in Tacoma. This monitor has measured 24-hour pollution levels in violation of federal air quality standards for fine particulate matter (PM2.5).
“Our residents can benefit from improved air quality in our community by taking advantage of this program,” added Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland.
Funding for this program comes from $490,000 in Washington Department of Ecology grant money awarded to Puget Sound Clean Air Agency as designated from the Washington State Legislature, and approximately $1.2 million in energy-efficiency block grants awarded to the City of Tacoma and Pierce County from the U.S. Department of Energy, as well as program administration provided by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. The program is also supported by Tacoma Power and Puget Sound Energy, which provide additional rebates on heating and insulation measures, as well as Elmhurst Mutual Power & Light and Parkland Light & Water.
The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency is an air quality management agency serving King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties. Created as a result of the 1967 Washington Clean Air Act, the agency protects public health and improves air quality by adopting and enforcing air quality regulations, educating individuals and businesses about clean-air choices and sponsoring voluntary initiatives to improve air quality.