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Revised open-burning proposal up for review

In response to public comment, the Washington Department of

Ecology (DoE) has redrafted proposed revisions to the state's open-burning

regulations, to give air-pollution-control agencies more flexibility in

deciding whether a geographical area has a "reasonable alternative to burning."

"We got a clear message from the public that our original proposal

was too restrictive," said Mary Burg, who manages DoE's air-quality

program. "We've made changes to address those concerns."

Under state law, certain types of outdoor burning must be prohibited

in any area with a reasonable alternative to burning, and the proposed rule

establishes a process and some criteria for identifying such areas.

Ecology's original criteria would have prohibited burning in any area

within 15 miles of a municipal composting facility

or within 15 miles of another alternative if the alternative cost less than

the median of all solid waste tipping fees in the state.

The revised criteria will allow air-pollution-control agencies to

establish boundaries for each prohibited area based on the capacity of the

alternative, and then make adjustments as needed to define practical

boundaries for the area.

The Department of Ecology invites comment on the changed

proposal, and has set four public hearings around the state, all scheduled for

7 p.m.:

Thursday, Oct. 7, in Lacey — Department of Ecology Auditorium,

300 Desmond Dr.;

Tuesday, Oct. 12, in Mt. Vernon — Northwest Air Pollution

Authority Conference Room, 1600 S. 2nd St.;

Wednesday, Oct. 13, in Moses Lake — Big Bend Community

College Auditorium, 7662 Chanute St.; and

Thursday, Oct. 14, in Vancouver — Clark College North

Conference Room, 1800 E. McLoughlin Blvd.

Washington's Clean Air Act began phasing out residential and

land-clearing burning in 1991, beginning in areas with air-quality problems.

Starting Dec. 31, 2000, the phase-out extends to all cities with a

population over 10,000 and to the urban-growth areas for cities with populations

over 5,000. The phase-out applies to these and other types of burning when a

reasonable alternative to burning is found to exist. The phase-out deadline for

the urban-growth areas of most cities under 5,000 is Dec. 31, 2006.

State and local agencies receive more than 27,000 citizen

complaints about open burning each year regarding health effects, poor air

quality, odor and visibility.

Natural vegetation would remain the legal fuel for open burning.

The proposal would not change the existing ban on burning garbage or

other materials that produce excessive smoke or obnoxious odors. The

proposal would clarify that construction debris, including lumber scraps,

may not be burned. Fire containers would have to be brick or concrete; steel

burn barrels could not be used.

Tumbleweed burning in most counties and residential burning

in rural parts of less-populated counties would not require a permit.

Burning of storm and flood debris could be permitted, even in areas where

residential and land-clearing burning are banned. The open-burning rule

does not affect agricultural or silvicultural (forest management) burning,

which are covered under separate regulations.

Ecology's proposal would clarify that the rule does not apply on

Indian reservations, except by intergovernmental agreements.

Citizens may obtain a copy of the proposed regulations or submit

written comments by contacting the DoE at Dept. of Ecology, Attn.:

Bruce Smith, P.O. Box 47600, Olympia, Wash., 98504-7600; by fax at

Attn.: Open-Burning Comment; (360) 407-6802; or by email

at brsm461@ecy.wa.gov. Please enter "Open-Burning Comment" in the

subject line. The draft rule change and other information also can be

viewed on the Internet at

www.wa.gov/ecology/leg/activity/wac173425.html. Written comments will be

accepted through Oct. 22.

Additional information is available through the Puget Sound Clean

Air Agency, at (206) 343-8800, or www.psapca.org.

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