« Return to this article

Know the West

Air quality and equity


Lee van der Voo's article on renewable energy development in Lakeview, Ore., was well-balanced and informative (HCN, 3/21/11). There is one energy-related issue in Lakeview that was not mentioned, however: air quality.

As in most of the rural West, many folks in and around Lakeview use wood heat. But the area is prone to winter inversions that trap wood smoke near the ground, resulting in health advisories and burning restrictions. Biomass development in such circumstances can result in more restrictions on individual wood burning, while biomass plants continue to burn. There are related environmental justice issues: Poor folks rely on wood heat more than rich folks, or more often have wood as their only heat source.

Clean air is another valuable resource. It as well as restrictions that impact one group or class more than others need to be considered when biomass plants are developed.

Felice Pace
Klamath Glen, California