Libby, Montana: Ideal Candidate

Final Libby Report - January 31, 2008

Pilot Project Demonstrates Effectiveness of Wood Stove Changeouts; Nationwide Tax Incentives Proposed 

Release: Arlington, VA – Consumers who install new wood stoves this winter not only will enjoy warmer homes, but also can save money and help clean the air, according to a new report released today by the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA). The report, Clearing the Smoke, unveils results from a pilot program to replace every outdated woodburning stove in Libby, Montana, with new, cleaner units certified to strict U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards.... 

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Read full report - Clearing the Smoke: The Wood Stove Changeout Libby, Montana

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Textbook Profile for a Changeout

If there was ever a textbook candidate for a wood stove changeout program, it is the community of Libby, Montana, both in terms of geography and demographics.  Libby is located in the remote northwest corner of Montana in a bowl-shaped valley surrounded by steep mountains.  This is ideal topography for temperature inversions that can cause smoke from wood stoves to get trapped close to the ground and create potential adverse health effects.  A significant portion of Libby’s residents rely on wood stoves for heating, and during the cold winter months, the entire valley can become enshrouded in smoke.   

Libby’s population also includes a number of people who live on fixed or low incomes.  HPBA through its member companies donated approximately $1 million in stoves, chimney venting, and cash for installation to help the most needy families in Libby replace their old wood stoves.  The U.S. EPA provided the community with a $100,000 grant to assist this first phase of the program.  Later, a congressional earmark provided purchase incentives to the other families in the community.  

The energy-efficiency gains of new stoves also motivated many homeowners to participate.  To help raise community awareness, campaign organizers held a kick-off news conference that generated widespread media coverage, followed by a wood stove fair that gave citizens a look at their options.

Two-Pronged Approach

Please click on the following image to view the Libby, Montana Success Story video.

The first phase of Libby’s wood stove changeout campaign in 2005 targeted low-income households for changeouts and provided them the opportunity to secure EPA-certified appliances at no cost.  Lincoln County identified households eligible for various types of public assistance, pre-screened them for eligibility, then notified them with a letter whether or not they were eligible for the program. In some cases, the County provided letters and postage to the agencies that held the lists of eligible households, such as the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP).  The County also worked with HPBA to conduct a variety of community and media outreach activities to build awareness, and to hold a series of wood stove changeout fairs that provided eligible citizens with the opportunity to register and sign up for free stoves.  Landlords were asked to provide a $500 co-pay if their renter qualified for a replacement stove.  

In 2006, Phase Two of the campaign focused on households, landlords and businesses that did not qualify under the Phase One guidelines.  Phase Two participants are required to contribute a substantial co-pay.  A variety of discounts and other incentives are available to participants in the second phase from appliance dealers and manufacturers.  As with Phase One, Lincoln County is working with HPBA to hold wood stove changeout fairs and to conduct various outreach activities to build awareness among potential participants in Libby.

Phase I Results and Lessons Learned

  • When Libby’s changeout began, organizers set a goal of replacing 1200 stoves, and the community is halfway there as the program nears its midpoint, in November 2006.
  • In Phase One, wood stove, gas hearth products, and pellet stoves changeouts occurred in the homes of nearly 200 low-income families, and more than 650 applications have been received as of Fall 2006 from the remaining homes in the community.
  • Other communities with environmental and geographic issues similar to those in Libby can look to this program as a model they can replicate.
  • The $1 million congressional earmark that Libby’s program received shows there is potential to receive federal funding with the help of a champion on Capitol Hill.

For More Information Contact

Lincoln County Department of Environmental Health
406-293-1239


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