April 2, 2001
It's the landowners who will pay
The new burn ban on Hollywood Hill and other areas west of Avondale and Paradise Lake roads is a prime example of state agencies run amuck.
State law currently reads that spring and fall burning of natural debris is allowed in rural areas of the state that meet air quality standards. According to state tests this area meets those standards.
Last year the state Department of Ecology and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA) passed their own version of state law to allow burn bans in rural areas that ever in the past exceeded air standards.
Then, despite no evidence whatsoever that Hollywood Hill et al. ever exceeded those standards, the agencies instituted a permanent ban based on an alleged former failure in carbon monoxide testing. Not only did they never produce testing evidence of failure, but carbon monoxide is primarily caused by auto exhaust, not outdoor burning.
The point being made is that existing legislative law says burn bans can be placed in areas that currently exceed air standards. Last year's agencies' rules say burn bans can be placed in areas that formerly exceeded air standards. (Nothing is said about fabricating evidence out of thin air.)
Here's the kicker. Only now is the state legislature considering making the legislative change to allow the agencies to do what they already did last year; i.e., allow burn bans in rural areas based on past, not current, test failures. Instead of slapping the agencies' hands for exceeding their statutory authority, the legislature is contemplating changing the law to suit what the agency wants, and has already adopted in their own rules. (Contact your state legislators to kill ESHB 1034, a copy of which can be ordered from 1-800-562-6000. That bill also gives the PSCAA unlimited authority to ban burning anywhere in the Puget Sound area, with no reason required.)
When questioned about the Hollywood Hill burn ban, the PSCAA, ignoring the no-evidence issue, responded that there are "alternatives to outdoor burning, such as composting, chipping, curbside yard waste pickup, and regional drop boxes available in the Hollywood Hill area of King County."
Also ignored by the PSCAA are the significant adverse impacts on the solid waste stream of increased pickup.
In Bellevue, yard waste comprises one-third of the garbage pickup - think of the impact from the addition of debris from acreages compared to city lots. Further, at a recent solid waste disposal meeting, it was pointed out the additional truck traffic will contribute to traffic congestion and will be impacted by traffic congestion.
It's the landowners who will pay, directly or indirectly, for the trucking time, as well as the other debris disposal costs. They can't leave chip piles because of the danger of spontaneous combustion, and they can't leave heaps of unprocessed, unburned debris because of a law against fire hazards.
Call your legislators. State agencies need reining, not dropping the reins.
Maxine Keesling, Woodinville