Capital News Service

of the Michigan State University School of Journalism

Battle blazes over burning ban

By SARA QAMAR
Capital News Service

LANSING – A regulation proposed by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) would ban open burning of household trash to prevent pollution and health risks, including lung disease, heart disease and asthma.

However, pending legislation by Rep. Kenneth Kurtz, R-Coldwater, would block the regulation from taking effect.

Critics of the rule cite property rights concerns and costly trash disposal for rural residents, where open burning is more common.

“In terms of rural communities, where formalized trash pickup is more expensive or less available, the burning of household garbage is a cultural practice,” DEQ communications director Brad Wurfel said.

The proposed rule, one of many left over from the Granholm administration awaiting Gov. Rick Snyder’s approval, needs to be signed before April 1 for DEQ to issue the regulation.

Wurfel said it’s not uncommon for a new administration to review rules proposed by its predecessor therefore deciding whether they should take effect.

“They want to do a careful review right now. They want to make sure that what the governor signs is where the governor wants to go,” he said.

DEQ opposes Kurtz’s bill, Wurfel said.

Uncontrolled emissions from burning can exacerbate lung disease, heart disease and asthma, among other health risks, leading to more emergency rooms visits, said American Lung Association-Michigan advocacy director Shelly Kiser.

The group supports the proposed DEQ rule.

The elderly and children are most vulnerable to particulates in the air, Kiser said.

Two of the most harmful emissions are dioxin and particulates that are small enough to lodge deep in the lungs and enter the bloodstream.

In a 2010 state of the air report, the association gave Kent, Allegan, Oakland and Washtenaw counties a C grade in particle pollution, with Wayne County receiving an F.

Because Michigan must meet federal air quality standards, allowing residents to release uncontrolled emissions could make it harder for businesses to meet the standards, Michigan Environmental Council communications director Hugh McDiarmid said.

“We spend a fair amount of money for pollution control equipment in our factory smokestacks and power plants,” he said.

MEC policy director James Clift said it would cost rural households about $12 a month for trash service.

Implementing the ban would be fairer for people who incur medical bills for treatment of health problems caused by the emissions, he said.

“Where one person might be saving money by not taking their trash to a landfill, it might lead to other people spending money,” he said.

Co-sponsors of the bill include Reps. David Agema, R-Grandville; Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City; and Jeff Farrington, R-Utica.

It’s pending in the House Natural Resources, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Committee.

© 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

 

 

 

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