The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association of Canada has developed a proposal to deal with the use of older stoves and burning unseasoned wood. File photo

The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association of Canada has developed a proposal to deal with the use of older stoves and burning unseasoned wood. File photo

Courtenay council questions feasibility of Air Quality Improvement Plan

The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association of Canada has tabled an Air Quality Improvement Plan that could yield immediate, measurable effects in the Comox Valley. The three-pillared plan aims to improve air quality by using renewable, locally sourced fuel.

“This is an achievable goal that has occurred in many regions in North America and other parts of the world,” HPBAC director of government affairs Jeff Loder said at Courtenay council June 7.

He said industry is prepared to invest in a woodlot to ensure year-round access to a sustainable, dry and seasoned wood supply, which would maximize wood burning efficiency, and reduce particulate matter (PM) and greenhouse gas emissions.

The second pillar is a targeted wood stove exchange program to replace uncertified stoves and inserts with certified stoves, and to recycle old appliances. The third pillar is a public education/training program that includes wood burning clinics and in-home training.

“It’s our perspective that much more could be done locally, regionally and in other parts of North America on this front,” Loder said. “Old, uncertified wood stoves are part of the problem, and we will make sure that they are replaced.”

Coun. Melanie McCollum questioned how the plan could come together. She asked for examples of communities implementing a sustainable, dry wood supply. Chris Bowen of Pioneer Fireplace could not think of any examples in B.C., but he’s been in contact with a man who runs a retail woodlot in Illinois. HPBAC director of public affairs John Crouch said Fairbanks, Alaska has initiated a large kiln capable of doing 64 cords every few days.

“Not only does this not exist in B.C., but we’re surrounded by privately owned forests, so even the supply is an issue,” McCollum said. “We don’t have any mills nearby. The cost of wood supply is $200-$250 a cord. You’re looking at $1,000 a year in fuel costs…The economics long-term, to me, don’t totally add up.”

In terms of feasibility, Bowen said the plan is already developed. He noted that a local wood supplier is capable of producing about 2,000 cords a year, but cannot sell dry wood because he can’t season it properly.

“In terms of the logistics of setting up the business, we’re about 70 per cent of the way there,” Bowen said. “Access to the wood has been a challenge…Our big impediment is land, and the investment dollars. We’re willing to put up the money and take a shot at it. It’s so close to launch.”

Bowen said $200,000-$300,000 would cover immediate needs and equipment, but the bigger issue is time and land to produce the dry wood.

The HPBAC is asking the city to work with the association and local members to implement the initiative. Where possible, financial and in-kind support would recognize the commitment of industry to lead and invest in the initiative.

A third request is to revoke Section 19 (Solid Fuel Burning Appliance) of Building Bylaw 3001.

“I think you all understand our position related to the ban of wood burning appliances in new homes and in renovations,” Loder said. “From our perspective, it sends a signal that wood burning and climate change and reducing and PM matter and improving are inconsistent, and we don’t agree with that policy. From a business perspective, that ban sends a signal that’s hard to overcome when you’re trying to attract investment of thousands of dollars for a woodlot.”

The association hopes to develop a partnership to battle a common enemy, which is wood smoke. Some members of council, however, took issue with the association’s messaging. Coun. Wendy Morin said there is not a ban on wood stoves in Courtenay, but Loder said the city has banned the use of wood burning appliances in new homes.

“We’ve developed a proposal to deal with the use of older stoves and burning of unseasoned wood,” Loder said.

Mayor Bob Wells said there is erroneous information on the website,, which says local governments have passed bylaws prohibiting the installation of new wood burning stoves. He questions what the city has done to make it more difficult to install or upgrade new stoves. He is also challenged by a statement from Bowen that says he has attempted to work with Cumberland and Courtenay ‘but was met with significant resistance.’

“At the end of the day, having dry, seasoned, certified wood that people have access to is the only path forward,” Wells said. “I want to make sure we’re working in good faith. But I need that messaging to go away. I don’t think there’s a value of having that website up any more.”

READ: Industry fights woodstove bans in Comox Valley

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