- Associated Press - Sunday, December 25, 2016

OAKRIDGE, Ore. (AP) - As woodstove smoke continues to raise pollution levels in Oakridge, Lane County is looking to expand its authority to enforce clean air rules in areas near the community.

Oakridge, a small city in the foothills of the Cascades, has been declared noncompliant with federal air quality rules and is required to take steps to limit air pollution, The Register-Guard reported (https://is.gd/T7xiWr ).

The Lane Regional Air Protection Agency, which enforces federal air-quality laws in Oakridge and other Lane County cities, is asking the county’s Board of Commissioners to expand the area around Oakridge that the agency regulates.

Commissioners approved a first reading of the amendment, which would allow the agency to regulate areas outside Oakridge’s city limits, but within the city’s urban growth boundary. A second reading is scheduled for Jan. 10.

The city’s air pollution typically gets worse in winter, when smoke from wood stoves cloaks the depression in which Oakridge sits. The city often ranks as the most polluted air in the state.

“Since I took over as mayor, we’ve made this a priority,” Jim Coey said.

Because if the city’s unique geography, air pollution is a constant problem. Oakridge sits in a bowl ringed by mountains, and smoke can become trapped over the city by an inversion that blocks off cleansing winds. Hundreds of residents use woodstoves or fireplaces to heat their homes.

Coey said he went to the county government this year to ask the air protection agency to expand its authority to regulate wood heating both inside and outside the city.

The agency has pushed residents to cut back on woodstove burning on polluted days and to get rid of inefficient woodstoves and fireplaces.

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Information from: The Register-Guard, https://www.registerguard.com


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