Burn ban proposal revised by DEC

By Jay Braman Jr.
After a one-year review, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has released a revised plan for regulating open burning.
In an effort to reduce the impacts of pollutants such as dioxins, particulate matter and carbon monoxide and to limit the risks of wildfires, the DEC announced plans last June to extend a ban on open burning statewide beyond the current ban for any municipality with a population of 20,000, a law in effect since 1972.
“This is a public health and safety issue,” said DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis. “The trash we are burning has become more complicated and damaging to air quality over the decades. From dioxins to furans to arsenic, numerous toxic chemicals can be released by open burning - worries we didn’t have several decades ago. Moreover, wildfires occur regularly from badly- tended open fires. This proposal will reduce the chances of that happening.”
But a growing number of local residents in the Catskills fought to protect their burn options to protect a lifestyle that many rural dwellers have grown used to. Critics of the plan said that such a ban would also prevent current lot clearing practices where contractors burn brush as they cut away the property, forcing contractors to pay to remove the brush. It would also prevent the typical clean ups done after winter weather wreaks its usual havoc on property. Often felled branches and blow downs are collected and burned on site.
Now the proposal has changed. DEC has set a June 26 deadline for comments on a new draft of the proposal, which now calls for a ban on residential outdoor burning entirely, but only for two months each spring for municipalities with populations of 20,000 or fewer people. Also, the new draft only allows the burning of brush and small trees the rest of the year, thus calling a halt to the burning of trash.
Under the proposed regulations, all outdoor burning would be banned on residential property in the smaller municipalities between March 16 and May 14.
The new plan also defines “brush” in a way that those experienced with brush burning may disagree with. “Brush” can be up to six-inches thick, but no more than eight-feet long.
For more information on the proposal check DEC’s website or call DEC at 518 402-8545. Comments can be sent to the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Air Resources, 625 Broadway - 2nd Floor, Albany, NY 12233-3254.