Leaf Burning Ban Gains Traction

From this week’s House Republican Newsletter:

DNR Legislation Introduced to Sharply Increase Fees & Prohibit Residential Trash Burning

On Thursday, January 22, 2009, several controversial measures of legislation drafted at the behest of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) were published and assigned to both House and Senate committees dealing with environmental protection issues. One of the measures (House Study Bill 59 and its Senate companion Senate Study Bill 1059) lifts the cap on the amount of fees that DNR charges public water supply permit holders from $350,000 to $1 million effective the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2009. In addition, the measure at least doubles the current permit fee for a non-community public water supply system from $25 to a minimum of $50 a year with the amount being calculated on basis persons served. The measure also stipulates that the calculation of persons served will be based on the maximum monthly numbers, and explicitly expands the scope of the permit requirement to include non-community public water supply systems currently not used for human consumption (toilets or industrial use). This expansion of the scope of regulation will adversely effect the survival of small rural churches and rural businesses which not only have a difficult time in both paying for the additional fees, but even more concerning may be challenged to perform the required water testing aspect of the permit.

HSB 90 phases in a complete ban of residential waste open burning in or near any municipality across the state. The smell of burning leaves in the fall will be just a memory. HSB 90 direct DNR to devise and adopt administrative rules to implement a phased-in-ban of the burning of residential waster (which includes landscape materials) in and around municipalities. The phase-in would start 1-1-10 and apply to any city with a population larger than 2,500 and to the adjacent unincorporated area within one-quarter of a mile of the city limits. The phase-in would ratchet down in subsequent years with the threshold dropping to city over 1,000 on January 1, 2011; 500 or more on January 1, 2012; and starting on January 1, 2013 any city in the state. DNR argues in its support letter attached to the study bill that the reason for the existing exception was that in the past other waste management option weren’t widely available and nor were they affordable. The department now says those condition don’t exist anymore and the human health threat it believes is created by this means of disposal needs to be addressed.

DNR estimates that there are still 309 municipalities that allow some limited burning of household residential waste and 740 continue to allow the burning of leaves and other landscape waste such as dead fall tree limbs and branches. Opponents of this legislation are concerned that not only is this another bite out of taxpayer income but also costs, especially in more rural and distant-from-landfill communities, could reach monthly charges to householders of $40-60 and could subsequently trigger more trash dumping in and near their communities. Another concern is how seasonal landscape waste will be handled, considering that most small communities don’t have the economies of scale to acquire the equipment needed to handle such waste at a low cost that larger cities do. This consideration could change in the future with development of cellulosic biofuels which could utilize landscape waste as a component of feedstock used by such operations.


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