August 30, 2008

Legislature Opposes Rule Change to Ban Open Burning

By Kathy Kellogg

The Cattaraugus County Legislature voted, 18-2, Wednesday to oppose the state Department of Environmental Conservation's proposed rule change to ban open burning across the state.

Until now, the state's open-burning restrictions have applied only to communities with populations of more than 20,000 people, but municipalities can enact their own bans.

The proposed statewide rule targets primarily backyard burning of garbage, yard waste, plastics and synthetics but would allow ceremonial bonfires, barbecues and certain other fires. It exempts a list of activities, including maple producers who burn wood to evaporate maple sap, firefighters who conduct training exercises if hazardous materials are not ignited and farmers who burn paper bags, twine and other organic materials.

The county's resolution was sponsored by E. James Ellis, R- Cattaraugus, and bypassed committee discussion before being taken up immediately on the floor Wednesday.

"I can understand it in New York City but not here where locals depend on their woodlots for heat. It takes away our ability to keep a house warm," said Ellis, expressing the hope that the resolution will be considered by the DEC and complaining that the agency pays more attention to fires in the Midwest.

The opposition statement comes after the DEC's extended Aug. 14 comment deadline and a series of statewide public hearings that ended Aug. 7 in Belmont, where Allegany County legislators presented a similarly worded resolution opposing the proposal.

Casting no votes were Norman L. Marsh, R-Little Valley, and Carmen A. Vecchiarella, D-Salamanca. Marsh said after the meeting that he supports the ban.

"In a small community, people have huge bonfires. It's a health problem," said Marsh, who also serves as mayor of the Town of Little Valley, which is not covered by the current law due to its population.

Marsh said officials there are watching the rule-making process and will propose a similar ban if the DEC's rules are not changed.

"People have burn barrels, and if you live in close proximity and you have breathing and health problems, you find that these people will burn anything in them," he said.


Lawmakers also:

* Chose Peterson Landscaping of Allegany to install a rear sidewalk and replace four driveway aprons at the Little Valley County Center, for $19,284.66.

* Chose J.D. Northrup Construction of Ellicottville to restore stream banks at the East Otto Bridge No. 29 ($11,850) and County Road No. 6 ($10,220).

* Appointed former Department of Aging Director Cherianne Wold as interim director, replacing Director Ann M. Feightner, who will resign Sept. 5 to take position at the new Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) in Olean.

* Postponed for the second time a resolution authorizing union negotiations for a four-day work, sending the measure back to the Public Works, Labor Relations and Finance Committee meetings.

Originally published by CATTARAUGUS CORRESPONDENT.

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