Tacoma – Pierce County Clean Air Task Force
The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency needed to develop solutions to reduce fine particle air pollution in Tacoma-Pierce County in ways that community members would accept. In 2009 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had classified parts of Tacoma and Pierce County as a containment area for this form of air pollution. In Tacoma-Pierce County, the highest levels of this pollution were in the fall and winter when more than half of it was from wood smoke, largely from wood stoves. This meant that solutions would affect many households, some of whom relied on wood for heat.
The Clean Air Agency formed the Tacoma-Pierce County Clean Air Task Force in early 2011 to help identify, evaluate and recommend community-based solutions to reduce fine particle pollution and meet federal air quality standards. The 22-member task force needed to develop recommendations by December 2011. The agency and the Washington State Department of Ecology would use these recommendations to develop a State Implementation Plan, to submit to the U.S. EPA. The Clean Air Agency hired Cedar River Group to facilitate the task force process.
Cedar River Group worked with agency staff to identify community leaders, elected officials and local residents, including people with wood stoves, to serve on the task force. We worked with the staff to plan each task force meeting and identify information the task force needed. Cedar River Group helped the task force adopt ground rules for its meetings, and facilitated and documented the 11 task force meetings (May-December), and several meetings of ad hoc work groups. We led the task force in brainstorming possible solutions, developing a list of criteria for potential solutions, and creating an evaluation tool. We facilitated the task force’s discussions to narrow the set of solutions and develop recommendations. We also participated in two public open houses, and reviewed public comments from an online survey and community meetings. We drafted the task force’s final report and recommendations, reviewed the document with the task force, and incorporated their input. The task force came to unanimous consensus on the recommendations, with one exception related to a proposed wood stove registration system.
The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency used the task force’s report to make recommendations to the state Department of Ecology in time for Ecology to meet the deadline for responding to the EPA. The Clean Air Agency also was successful in getting legislation in 2012 giving the agency the authority to take new actions the task force recommended to call enhanced burn bans. The agency also secured additional grant funding for removal of uncertified wood stoves. Having the backing of task force members was key to these successes in the legislature. In the next two winters, the agency issued 2,000 notices of violation and had few re-offenders. Monitoring showed the air quality improved to meet EPA’s standard.