Whitney Cripe / 2 March, 2015


Using Collaboration, Community and Common Sense to Respond to Utah’s Proposed Seasonal Burn Ban.

With increasing concerns about the Utah’s air quality, especially during the winter months,

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s Air Quality Board put forward a proposal to ban all wood-burning from November 1 to March 1 with exemptions for sole-source users, restaurants, and residents above 7,000 feet.

While most are supportive of efforts to improve Utah’s air quality, there were resounding concerns from the public -as well as purveyors of wood-burning stoves (and other heat sources) – that the ban was too far reaching, and that a more moderate, but responsible solution could be achieved.

Our team worked together with a group of concerned Utah citizens, retailers of EPA-certified wood burning appliances and the national Hearth, Patio & Barbeque Association to conceive and activate the coalition, Utahns for Responsible Burning.   The citizen-backed coalition’s goals were to help educate and inform the public about the need to exempt EPA-certified wood burning heat appliances from the ban, and to create some clarity and navigable solutions associated with this “heated” issue.

Here’s how we tackled it:

  • We introduced and educated the media to the implications of a broad wood burning ban and the benefits of new EPA-certified wood burning technology.
  • We aided the coalition in telling their story in a clear and consistent way.  And we helped the coalition to lead out in terms of the conversation on the proposed ban by developing messaging, social media-based outreach platforms and a comprehensive communications strategy.
  • We helped communicate that the above all, the coalition cares about clean air, but that clean air and wood-burning are not mutually exclusive. By exempting EPA-certified products; except for on the worst air days, and incentivizing residents to upgrade to cleaner technologies the DAQ would be able to clean-up Utah’s air, while maintaining Utahns ability to burn responsibly.

With web, social and grassroots communication components in place, we were able to generate extensive media interest and one-on-one interviews with reporters and editors to help get our client’s key messages to the forefront,  garnering front page coverage and a clear shift in the energy around the ban.

The results?  The originally proposed ban is now off of the table.  The coalition is working closely with a team of local legislators to get a YES vote on HB 396, a law that would include exemptions for EPA-certified wood burning appliances.  Additionally, some provisions are being explored to create future incentives for Utahns looking to upgrade or change out their older stoves for a new, cleaner burning one.