Northwest NEWS

November 5, 2001

Editorial

Citizens want to be controlled by adopted laws, not by unauthorized administrative rules

The Hollywood Hill Association's Oct. 24 meeting included a discussion of the outdoor burning ban on the areas west of Avondale and Paradise Lake roads.
   The speaker from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA) claimed that its recent prohibition resulted from the Department of Ecology's having to update its burn rules due to revisions in the Washington Clean Air Act passed by the legislature. And that while the new rules required the burn ban because of Hollywood Hill et al's auto carbon monoxide emissions in downtown Bellevue, it's really particulate matter in smoke that concerns the PSCAA.
   It's as clear as the printed word can make it that the Act's current criteria for prohibition do not include our local rural areas. And current court cases make it equally clear that administrative agencies cannot bypass legislative law unless the law is either silent or ambiguous.
   Regarding particulates, which the speaker implied that outdoor burning was depositing in unspeakable amounts into our lungs, King County's supplemental environmental impact statement for its Complan 2000 said that the tons of particulates from outdoor burning dropped from 142.7 tons in 1993 to 17.3 tons in 1998, all during which period Hollywood Hill was allowed limited outdoor burning. (As to smoldering, smoky nuisance fires, a call to the fire department results in immediate extinguishment, as those fires are against the law.)
   In 1997, the state's clean air standards for particulates, ozone and carbon monoxide were exceeded only three times - all in Eastern Washington, and with two of those three times being caused by dust storms. The agencies have not indicated any standards failures since then.
   It appears that the PSCAA is using fear tactics to create public support for the complete elimination of all outdoor burning within its 3-county area.
   Its tool for accomplishing that goal is to assert that there are reasonably available and affordable alternatives for landowners to dispose of brush and fallen branches from rural acreage. (Even though the spokesman for King County's solid waste division said they prefer limited spring/fall outdoor burning for rural debris disposal, rather than adding it to the county's solid waste stream that requires hauling.)
   We can thank King County Councilwoman Louise Miller for the fact that it won't be a slam-dunk for PSCAA to accomplish that complete prohibition. Ms. Miller has caused the inclusion in the county's solid waste plan of a requirement that the program provide for affordable collection and recycling of woody debris in areas affected by the PSCAA's burn ban, with a report to the council detailing a series of options with cost estimates for each option.
   It should be noted that at the Hollywood Hill Association meeting, there was enthusiastic clapping for the precept that citizens want to be controlled by elected legislators' adopted laws, not by unauthorized administrative rules that bypass the authorizing adopted laws.
   Maxine Keesling, Woodinville