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Bruce Bialosky

West Hollywood Kills Fireplaces

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Following on the heels of banning plastic bags and the sale of furs, the city of West Hollywood, California, enacted a new ordinance eliminating the use of fireplaces. The ordinance is being hailed as one of the great advances in in environmental law in the past century.

Bruce Bialosky

The ordinance, which becomes effective as of November 1, 2013, comes in time to eliminate the use of fireplaces during the impending winter season. Residents opposed to the new law said the killjoys in the city were particularly evil for banning the use of fireplaces just prior to the holiday season. They said chestnuts roasting on an open fire are the essence of the Christmas season, and the people outlawing the use were anti-religion.

The Mayor of West Hollywood, Abbe Land, indicated it was quite to the contrary — it is because of religion the ban was put in place. Mayor Land said the particulates released into the air from just one fireplace are as damaging as 40 tractor-trailer trucks to the environment. She said “We have allowed selfish people to destroy the air of our community for far too long. We see this as a beginning of a movement across America.”

The news has electrified the environmental community. Former Vice-President Al Gore jumped in immediately to applaud the leaders of the city. Gore said “Fireplaces have been one the leading causes of harmful damage to our air for decades. It is exciting that the movement to kill off these mini-furnaces belching out carcinogens has finally begun in full-force.”

The announcement of the ban coincided with a national meeting of the Union of Concerned Scientists. When the ban on fireplaces was announced from the podium, it was reported the scientists gave a rousing standing ovation and broke out in cheers for what they perceived as a major move in the advancement of limiting CO2 gases in the atmosphere.

Elliott Negin, spokesperson for the Union, cheered the leaders of West Hollywood. He stated on behalf of the Scientists: “If leaders worldwide would just have half the strength of these fearless representatives of West Hollywood, Global Warming would be an issue of the past.” He also announced the establishment of an annual award named the West Hollywood Award to go to civic leaders who most advance the cause of anti-Global Warming. The prize was announced as an electric car to be used by the community.

There are, however, aspects of the new law that have become worrisome for some of the residents. Because the city does not have personnel to police the use of the fireplaces, they have enlisted community members. Anyone who reports a confirmed use of a fireplace will have $750 taken off their property tax bill the next year. If they report two separate incidents, they will have $2,000 tax relief. If a resident has three valid reports, they will have their property taxes relieved for a full year, free dinner at Dan Tana’s restaurant for a month and be named an honorary host of the West Hollywood Halloween festivities.

Another aspect that concerns citizens is the future of fireplaces. No new fireplaces can be built within the city limits. In addition, residents have three years to seal their fireplaces or risk fines up to $10,000 for unsealed fireplaces. The city has created a special fund to aid disadvantaged residents to pay for the cost of sealing off their fireplaces. The Mayor said the cost of the program will be paid by the fees charged for permitting the construction to seal the fireplaces of rich residents of the city. She boasted this was just an act of fairness for all the residents.

As the fireplace ban goes into effect, the environmental community is looking to spread this movement across the country. Anti-fireplace literature is being supplied to local leaders by Friends of the Earth. Erich Pica, President of Friends, said “We want to turn the rest of America into West Hollywood.”