The State DEC: Ban Burn Barrels
Strengthen The Brush Fire Permit Process
We attended the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s
public hearing on its proposed ban of all Open Burning at
its Norrie Point Environmental Center in Staatsburg on Tuesday,
June 24. Homeowners, farmers and contractors from Clinton,
Milan, Red Hook, Rhinebeck, Olive, Gardiner, Highland, Esopus
and Greene County, among other locations, spoke vigorously
of the proposed Open Burn ban in terms of home rule erosion,
unfounded mandates, economic hardships, property rights, and
a set of laws that seem to have overshot their original intent.
At the recent hearing, the majority of statements asked whether
the state were more concerned with the burning of garbage
or brush. The state replied by noting how the current system
of burn permits, overseen by local towns and villages, had
been put into place a century ago as a means of keeping watch
for potential forest fires from the fire tower system then
in place statewide. Any seen plume, it was figured, could
be matched against lists of permitted burns for a day. Now,
with that tower system obsolete, it was too hard keeping up
with burns to allow any, officials said.
A former Clinton town supervisor pointed out that the new
agricultural exemptions didn’t make sense in terms of
real farming where much of the hardest work had to do with
keeping the edges of fields back. Which meant burning brush.
And what, he added, would happen to the state’s Open
Space initiative if spaces couldn’t be kept open because
of the expenses necessitated by wood chippers and other means
of timber removal, he asked. And where would the new piles
of wood chips be kept or gotten rid of to?
Farmer H. Sheldon Boice of Olive talked about how careful
he, and everyone he knew, was when they did controlled burns.
Then he pointed out how important it was to the cemetery association
he headed to burn brush from the 57 pine trees under their
care. Any added expense from renting or purchasing chippers,
or having wood hauled away, would likely be too much for them.
Contractor Terry Elmendorf, also of Olive, said the only way
he could clear most of the steep lots he’d building
on is with fire. What was he to do?
Others spoke of keeping their home lots looking clean and
brush free. Of working hard to live life as asked, recycling
all they could and burning the rest. What had they done wrong?
As the evening went on, people talked at length about the
history of mankind’s use of fire as a healthy tool for
Answering questions on behalf of the state, DEC Official Bob
Stanton said the regulations had been written per a vague
order by former governor Eliot Spitzer, and would be open
to changes once the current public hearing process, including
receipt of written comments, was completed this month.
We heartily support such changes. As with most of the folks
we heard last week, we believe it makes sense to ban burn
barrels. But we also believe permitting should continue for
controlled burns involving brush.
Eventual banning of all open fires might make sense in the
future, if the climate change trends some are predicting turn
out to true, but let’s get there slowly, empirically.
We trust the state will do the right thing on this one but
to make sure, how about everyone sending written comments
to Robert Stanton, New York State Department of Environmental
Conservation, Division of Air Resources, 625 Broadway, 2nd
Floor, Albany, NY 12233. Telephone (518) 402-8403; Email:
firstname.lastname@example.org. They’ll be accepted through
5 pm, July 10. Let’s make sure this one works for us…