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Environmental Protection Agency Clean Air Excellence Award

Auburn, Calif.- The Placer County Air Pollution Control District today was presented with a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 2010 Clean Air Excellence Award in Washington, D.C.
The award recognizes the Air District’s efforts in partnership with Placer County, the U.S. Forest Service, and Sierra Pacific Industries to implement projects to improve forest health, reduce the risk and negative effects of catastrophic wildfires, and convert excess forest biomass into renewable power.ย  These combined efforts have, in turn, significantly reduced harmful air emissions.
“What we’re demonstrating is that it’s possible to improve forest health, clean the air and produce more energy from renewable sources while at the same time making management of forests more economically sustainable,” said Jim Holmes, Placer County Supervisor and Placer County Air Pollution Control District (PCAPCD) Board member.
The District’s project is one of only 12 nationwide being recognized with a 2010 award.ย  “EPA’s history is marked by innovations that have made our communities cleaner, healthier and more prosperous. This year’s Clean Air Excellence Award winners are continuing that tradition,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said. “The winners of this award are helping to make our air cleaner and our communities more sustainable.”

Placer County’s 550,000 acres of forested land, stretching from Auburn east to Lake Tahoe are at significant risk of wildfire because they are unnaturally dense and clogged with excess material highly susceptible to burning.ย  In the last 10 years alone, the County has experienced five major fires that burned more than 50,000 acres.

These fires are expensive to fight, cause widespread environmental damage and release tons of harmful emissions into the air.

The Air District and its partners are implementing projects that reduce hazardous forest fuels, and transport and process excess forest biomass material such as limbs, tops and brush into clean energy.ย  These projects have been demonstrated to improve air and watershed quality, protect soil productivity and lower fire suppression costs.

The specific projects include:

  • Collecting forest biomass material from selective thinning and using it as a renewable fuel for energy production.
  • Quantifying the effects of forest thinning and hazard-reduction treatments on wildfire size and intensity.
  • Valuing the benefits of sustainable forest management strategies on resources such as carbon, water and wildlife habitat.
  • Identifying the specific air-quality benefits – including significant reductions in emissions of particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organics and greenhouse gases – associated with use of forest biomass as a fuel for energy production as compared to burning it in the open.
  • Establishing a monetary value for reduced greenhouse gas emissions resulting from diversion of biomass material away from open pile burns and into renewable energy facilities.

“We’re excited about and proud of the work we’ve done so far to demonstrate how smart use of public and private resources can yield so many environmental, economic and social benefits,” said Tom Christofk, PCAPCD Air Pollution Control Officer.

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