Release 95-18

Contacts: Jerry Martin/Allan Hirsch                                                      October 26, 1995
(916) 322-2990

For Immediate Release

ARB Approves Rice-Burning Proposal: Forwards Plan to Legislature

        The California Air Resources Board (ARB) today approved a staff proposal to pause the springtime phasedown of Sacramento Valley ricestraw burning at 50 percent for three years beginning in 1997 and ordered the report sent to the Legislature for consideration.

        The proposal, developed jointly by the ARB and the state Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), calls for the continued reduction of fall burning because of the threat to air quality and public health that can occur under fall weather conditions. Air quality data shows that springtime wind conditions are very favorable for quickly dispersing smoke from open field rice burning without violating air quality standards.

        Air Resources Board Chairman John Dunlap said, "We realize that Sacramento Valley residents are very concerned about the health consequences of falltime ricestraw burning and therefore we are proposing to continue the fall phasedown. However, during spring weather conditions, when favorable wind and air mixing disperses smoke emissions, we can pause the springtime burn levels at 50 percent while we search for alternatives. In this way, we will protect the public's health, but use the seasonal approval to ensure that our final decisions are the most cost effective."

        Some growers have been concerned that burning less than 50 percent of their acreage will force the use of alternatives that lead to crop disease that can cause yield losses, or that are too expensive. The ARB proposal would offer growers more acres to burn during spring, while retaining the health protecting aspects of the law during the more health-threatening fall burn season.

        Before preparing the report, the ARB and CDFA conducted four workshops at various locations throughout the Sacramento Valley. The meetings were well attended, and members of the public including public health officials, environmentalists, growers and other interested residents were given the opportunity to comment on the phase-down program.

        These actions are being taken in accordance with 1991 legislation to curtail all Sacramento Valley ricestraw burning by 2000, unless it is needed to control plant diseases. The phasedown plan progressively reduces the percentage of acres that may be burned until 2000 and requires the ARB and CDFA to report the law's progress to the Legislature. The law allows growers to burn up to 25 percent of their acreage after 2000 if they have significant yield-reducing disease.

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