Revised open-burning proposal up for review
October 2, 2008 · Updated 3:25 PM
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
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 email@example.com. 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.