Field Burning Study the First Step to a Decision

Article excerpt

Byline: Stephanie Hallock For The Register-Guard

At its Thursday Aug. 16 meeting, the Environmental Quality Commission took up the issue of field burning for the second time this year. The room was packed with field burning opponents and proponents armed with data, studies and personal stories - compelling tales of doctors whose patients suffer during the field burning season, and of farmers who depend on this agricultural practice for their livelihoods.

The Lane County Board of Commissioners requested that the commission use its authority to ban field burning based on "continuing and urgent threats to public health," and referenced the 2008 Olympic Trials in Eugene as a critical issue. The grass seed industry representatives countered that banning field burning not only would cripple the industry, but also contribute to the use of farming methods that could produce more harmful air and water pollutants.

Balancing the interests of all Oregonians is the greatest challenge of government - a challenge that government cannot undertake effectively without the help of involved citizens.

That is why the commission declined Lane County's request to ban field burning and elected instead to direct the Department of Environmental Quality to engage with citizens and stakeholders in an inclusive discussion of field burning, and to request resources from the Legislature to study the health effects and alternatives to field burning.

Some might be skeptical of another study. In the past five years or so,there have been hundreds of new medical studies done on fine particulate pollution and health effects. There is a large body of new medical research available today that was not available 10 years ago, when the field burning program last was evaluated. …