Routt County commissioners on Tuesday decided to use funds left over from a late-1990s stove conversion program for a land conservation project in the county.
About $21,000 was left in the budget for the stove conversion program budget, which Routt County has administered for the past seven years.
The program was established after a settlement between the owners of the Hayden Station power plant and the Sierra Club in the mid-1990s provided $250,000 for air quality improvement efforts in the Yampa Valley.
Officials used those funds for the Yampa Valley Stove Conversion Program in 1997 and 1998, which helped residents convert their wood stoves or coal-burning furnaces to cleaner fuels, said Routt County Environmental Health Director Michael Zopf.
Through the program, county residents received about $500 for each device that was upgraded. About 450 upgrades were made during the two-year period, Zopf said. In those homes, fireplaces and wood stoves were removed, converted to natural gas or propane, or equipped with a pollution-control device.
"It was wildly successful," Zopf said. "We were very please with the results."
Although the program ended six years ago, the $21,000 remaining had to be spent. The county, with agreement from the Sierra Club, the Hayden power plant and other parties, chose to give the funds to the Yampa Valley Land Trust for the Fulton Project. The money partially refunds the county's contribution to the project.
The decision marks the true end of the program and time to move on, Zopf said. He thanked the parties, especially the Sierra Club, which fought for the funds for the air quality improvements.
The $250,000 settlement stemmed from a 1993 Sierra Club lawsuit that alleged the power plant violated the federal Clean Air Act thousands of times during a five-year period. It also required the power plant undergo a $130 million pollution-control retrofit.
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