Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R, I, C – Batavia) today discussed his ardent opposition to the state Department of Environmental Conversation’s (DEC) new statewide burn ban regulations while appearing on a series of radio interviews, including WHAM Talk Radio. The new regulations, which prohibit open fires in populations greater than 20,000, were announced by the DEC last week.
“While the DEC claims that there will be no additional mandates for local governments, that is clearly untrue. In fact, the DEC admits that local government waste managements will have to expand in order to accommodate the increased amount of waste the burn ban will create. Additionally, even though the DEC estimates that the additional cost to residents would be around $50 per ton of waste, Western New Yorkers’ household budgets are already squeezed too hard. How much more ‘big government’ can our rural communities take?” asked Hawley, who voted against a similar piece of legislation, A.5457 of 2007, when it came before the Assembly (the bill was held in committee in 2008).
After the failure of such legislation to pass both houses of the State Legislature, discussions about instituting new statewide burn ban regulations began in the spring of 2008. Immediately, Hawley contacted the DEC to express his opposition to the measure and his feelings that creating a new regulation, in lieu of a law, was circumventing the legislative process. Additionally, that July, when the DEC held public hearings regarding the initiative, Hawley appeared before the panel to verbally express his opposition.
Due to the widespread opposition from rural communities regarding a statewide burn ban, the proposal was changed slightly to allow for a number of exemptions, including allowing on-site burning in towns with populations less than 20,000. This and a dozen other exemptions were included as part of the DEC’s final burn ban proposal announced several days ago, yet no provisions were outlined to assist local governments in affording or accommodating the increased amounts of waste. As detailed in the DEC’s “Express Terms 6 NYCRR Part 215”:
“This is due, for the most part, to the 6 NYCRR Part 360 Regulations which were promulgated on December 15, 1988. These regulations required each county to be responsible for the management and disposal of all municipal solid waste generated in their area. Most counties formed solid waste management associations and either built a landfill, built a series of transfer stations, or both. In turn, the municipalities which were now responsible for waste disposal would pay for the cost of disposal by raising taxes, charging fees at transfer stations, or both. For example, a rural community with a population of 1000 might expect their cost of transport and disposal of solid waste to increase by as much as $12,155.00 per year. This is based on data provided by the Division of Solid and Hazardous Materials and assumes the following worst case factors: one resident in three currently uses a burn barrel to dispose of their waste; an average person produces four pounds of solid waste a day; and the cost of transport and disposal of solid waste is $50.00 per ton…
“There will likely be a need for more employees (or employee hours) at rural solid waste transfer stations and at private waste haulers. Rural solid waste transfer stations are usually small facilities where residents bring their refuse, leaves, brush and recyclables. They typically consist of nothing more than a few roll-off containers into which residents deposit their wastes. When the containers are full, they are carted off to a permitted, composite lined solid waste landfill.
“Due to the potential increase in the amount of household waste, brush, and land clearing debris, communities may need to upgrade these transfer facilities. Most rural transfer stations are located on adequate land for expansion; many of them being located at a former landfill which was closed under 6 NYCRR Part 360 regulations. Upgrades would primarily consist of large trash compactors for household refuse, and wood chippers or tub grinders for brush and land clearing debris. Some communities currently rent tub grinders on a weekly or monthly basis to reduce brush/limbs to wood chips or mulch. These products can in turn be given back to the residents or used in municipal landscaping projects.”
As Hawley explains, “Sure, right now, a waste facility in a rural community may consist of just a few bins so, in theory, asking a local government to purchase a couple more bins doesn’t seem like a huge deal. However, the reason why there is such little waste, as used in their statistics, is because in rural communities like ours, people burn their waste to keep it out of the landfills. The statistics that the DEC is using are not realistic, therefore, the ‘marginal’ costs they estimate for our communities cannot be on target either.”
The DEC plans to submit their proposed regulation to the state within the next few days. If approved, the new regulation would go into effect after 30 days. However, Hawley has signed onto and supports A.7414, bipartisan legislation to prohibit the DEC from restricting the burning of garbage, refuse or rubbish in an open fire on land possessed by a single family or any part of a farm under certain circumstances.