Smoke Gets In Your Eyes? Not if Senator Florez Can Help It

Agricultural Burning Exemption to be Examined

Senator Florez to challenge basis for San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District’s effort to allow burning to continue in the country’s dirtiest air basin

SACRAMENTO – The Senate Select Committee on Air Quality, chaired by Senator Dean Florez (D-Shafter), will conduct an oversight hearing Wednesday, July 28th to challenge regulatory loopholes that will allow more than 90 percent of all agricultural burning to continue in the San Joaquin Valley.

Sen. Florez authored a series of air pollution control laws in 2003 that, among other things, banned the archaic practice of farmers burning their uprooted vines and trees in big bonfires. But the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is now trying to exempt most grape, citrus and almond growers from that law.

Florez is charging that the district is using a faulty “economic feasibility” test to claim that these farmers cannot afford to send their waste to a biomass plant or hire a chipper/shredder to break it down in an environmentally friendly way.

“The district is using all sorts of false assumptions and bad calculations to make the case that farmers need to continue burning in one of the most polluted air basin in the nation,” Sen. Florez said. “The hearing will examine how the district used questionable science to arrive at a conclusion that is overly friendly to those folks who want to continue to cheaply burn their waste.”

The California Air Resources Board accepted the air district’s science without ever delving into the numbers.

“Once we expose the numbers as wrong-and we will-we’re going to ask CARB to request that the San Joaquin Valley District extend the burning ban to the vast majority of farmers,” Florez said. “When it comes to grapes, for instance, only the smaller and less profitable raisin and wine grape farmers should be allowed to continue burning.”

Appearing at the hearing will be Mr. Seyed Sadredin, the head of the valley’s air pollution control district, and his staff. Among the experts to testify will be Roger A. Duncan, a University of California farm advisor in Stanislaus County, and representatives of the biomass industry.

A question that is also out there: If the data and analysis used to determine exemptions for Ag industries in the San Joaquin Valley is incorrect, is it simply a regional or Statewide issue?