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Saturday, March 14, 2009

No particulate place to go

Yesterday was a nice, spring-like Willamette Valley day. The sun was shining, although there was some serious rain in the forecast for the weekend.

And those conditions, friends, are when the grass seed farmers south of here start burning their fields, blowing nasty smoke every which way. They do this each late summer and fall, but I could have sworn I detected that smell yesterday afternoon. Glad I wasn't planning to go for an afternoon run or bike ride and actually breathe that stuff.

It looks as though some folks in the state legislature, along with the governor, are trying to end the ugly practice of burning. As longtime readers of this blog know, such efforts have my full support.

Comments (10)

Your readers might be interested in my Oregonian op-ed piece on field burning:


I gave copies of the Wharton/Goldschmidt correspondence to the Eugene-based Western Environmental Law Center in support of their efforts to end burning immediately; the governor's bill would phase it out over the next two years.

I'm much more annoyed by all the diesel trucks spewing out particulates than field burning.

It is so sad that the electorate careers are more important than the health and lives of their constituency. Field burning is cheap, hence it it the essence of good farming practices, in other words to hell with people.I have driven I-5 when the smoke sickened my children and all but blinded me.
The super K will huff and puff but I expect to see no changes made..it is just part of the procedure.

"blowing nasty smoke every which way"
"ugly practice of burning"

You have to be there when the burning is going on to realize how overwhelming it is.

Years ago in 1972, I was part of an associated student government group that toured community colleges. During our trip to Chemeketa CC, we could barely breathe or see. Some of the activities were held outside and quickly moved indoors. We could still smell the smoke.

I'd call it comparable to the nearly unbearable conditions in So OR and No CA in the 1980s when the wildfires were burning. I honestly felt panic as though I couldn't breathe properly while passing through the area.

I don't like truck exhaust either; when I had to commute from downtown Portland to Gresham years ago there were times while stuck on a bridge on hot days with the windows down that I couldn't think coherently or even verbalize properly but at least I could eventually drive away from it.

I'm much more annoyed by all the diesel trucks spewing out particulates than field burning.

I'll first acknowledge that we should indeed pursue cleaner-burning diesel, as western Europe has done.

But I don't put commercial vehicles burning diesel fuel on par with field-burning. We can't convert our fuel supply and truck fleets overnight; it's going to take some time. But we can fix field burning overnight, as there are easy, albeit more expensive, alternatives.

All it takes is the political will to fight the agricultural interests.

Mr. Rettig,

I agree that it would be easier to ban field burning than replace the existing fleet of diesel rigs (though it is a false dichotomy). If half the money spent on light rail had been used to upgrade the Tri-Met bus fleet, they would all be running on LNG or propane by now.

"Clean diesel" is already an outdated technology (environmentally speaking) for all rolling stock except railroads.

If I were the Energy Czar, we would be conserving most of our distillate fuels (gas, kerosene, diesel) for boats, aircraft, and the military. Auto, trucks, buses, and most construction equipment should all be running on LNG or propane: the technology has been around for years, but there is a HP reduction and the refueling infrastructure is still spotty.

Do you have a lawn? Thank your local grass seed farmer who's worked hard to grow that seed. And burning is a critically important tool for growing clean, disease free seed.
--This message from your local tree farmer

Granted, burning is the most efficient and cost-effective way for a grass seed farmer to operate but, like anything else that impacts the health and quality of life of others an adjustment is necessary. Many businesses have had to adapt over time.

Grass lawns are an artificial construct and not necessary. If someone wants acres of velvety-green lawn, then they will have to pay a little more for the privilege just as they would have to expect to pay to water and cut it.

Anyone who wants field burning banned had better not stand up and complain about the use of pesticides. Much of what field burning is about, is destroying disease and insect parasites.

Less field burning = more chemicals being sprayed. That's what you're asking for.

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