Duke Energy has committed $500,000 to help replace inefficient wood-burning stoves in Western North Carolina.
The American Lung Association is implementing the rebate program. Many remote households depend outdated wood stoves for heat, and those stoves use large amounts of fuel and produce huge clouds of pollution, according to policy vice president Janice Nolen, adding these communities already face other health problems.
“Children, whether they have asthma or not, older adults, low income people, and also people with diabetes and cardiovascular disease... these are a lot of people who are, often, living in these homes also face higher health risks and are more vulnerable,” Nolen said. “So it's really important that we reduce their pollution and give them a cleaner, safer, healthier place to be.”
This initiative is part of a 2015 settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It alleged that Duke Energy violated the federal Clean Air Act at some of its coal-fired power plants. Duke denies wrongdoing.
“You're cleaning up the power plant with the settlements that are made,” Nolen said. “And you're also reducing emissions that are directly affecting people who may be even at greater risk immediately from those harms and who don't have other options to have that happen in their community.”
Duke Energy Spokesman Randy Wheeless said many poor and remote households depend on old, inefficient wood burning stoves and black clouds of particulate matter are bad for local health.
“That's telling you there's a lot of pollution, a lot of bad stuff in that smoke, because the blacker it is, usually the worse it is,” Wheeless said. “So it may not have the impact of cars or power plants, but it's still another thing we can do to help eliminate air pollution, make the environment a little bit cleaner.”
Information about the wood stove change out program is available at lung.org.