November 1, 1996 in City

Most State Candidates Favor Field-Burning Ban Political Support For Phaseout Still Far From Unanimous

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A majority of Spokane’s legislative candidates support a state plan to phase out most field burning by 1998 to protect public health, according to a new survey.

Eleven candidates - seven Democrats and four Republicans - support the Department of Ecology’s proposed burning phaseout, according to Washington Conservation Voters.

The group’s survey was released Thursday in Spokane, where the burn ban is favored by lung specialists and clean-air groups.

Spokane, the state’s second largest city, is invaded by smoke clouds each summer and fall when Kentucky bluegrass farmers torch thousands of acres to prepare for the next year’s crop.

Ecology plans to adopt the statewide phaseout by Dec. 2. But whether it stands up depends on who’s elected to next year’s Legislature, said Bart Haggin of the conservation group.

“These regulations have been proposed before, but never implemented due to the power of the grass industry,” Haggin said.

Political support for the field-burning ban is far from unanimous, the survey found.

Candidates in the heart of bluegrass country snubbed the Conservation Voters’ survey. Only one of five responded. Republican Sen. Eugene Prince of Whitman County said he opposes the state rule.

Gubernatorial candidates Gary Locke and Ellen Craswell clash on the hot environmental issue. So do candidates for Spokane’s two contested state Senate seats and for two Spokane County Commissioner positions.

Locke favors the phaseout. Craswell didn’t respond to the survey, but said on the stump this week that she’d dump the rule and appoint an Ecology director who “understands farming.”

At an Aug. 30 Spokesman-Review editorial board session, Craswell said Ecology has gone “way overboard” with “intrusive” regulations penalizing business and farmers.

She also said there’s no scientific evidence that people are being hurt by grass smoke in Spokane.

That opinion is contradicted by 320 Spokane doctors who petitioned Ecology to phase out the practice because their patients suffer breathing problems during the field burning season.

When she announced the phaseout on March 19, Ecology Director Mary Riveland said she was moving to protect public health on the advice of the Spokane doctors.

A large number of recent scientific studies also show small particle pollution is far more dangerous than previously thought. The tiny particles can go deep into the lungs and their toxins are carried into the blood stream, the studies show.

In the 3rd District Senate race, incumbent Republican Sen. John Moyer - the only doctor in the Senate - replied that he’s “not totally” in favor of the phaseout.

Asked for an explanation, Moyer said he favors the burning ban in populated areas, but not in rural counties.

“In Spokane County, where lots of people live, it’s no good (to burn). But to burn a stubble field way out in the country, that’s different,” Moyer said.

Moyers’ challenger, Democratic Rep. Lisa Brown, favors the statewide rule.

Brown, Minority Whip in the Legislature, said last year that the biggest mistake she made during the session was not opposing a successful effort by lobbyists for grass growers that yanked the Spokane County Air Pollution Control Authority’s power to curtail the field-burning season.

Last fall, Brown urged Riveland to hold hearings on burning alternatives. She said it is Ecology’s duty under the state Clean Air Act to protect the most sensitive members of the public from unhealthy air.

In the 4th District Senate race, Democrat George Orr supports the phaseout. Republican Sen. Bob McCaslin didn’t respond to the survey or to telephone follow-ups, said Jean Johnson, Eastern Washington coordinator for the Conservation Voters.

In Spokane’s two contested commissioner races, Democrats Ron Hormann and Commissioner John Roskelley support the Ecology rule.

Their Republican opponents do not. Lila Howe said she can’t “speculate” on the issue, while Kate McCaslin said she favors local, not state, control.

The Conservation Voters are a statewide political action committee with more than 2,000 members. According to their letterhead, they work to elect “environmentally responsible candidates.”

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: CANDIDATE POSITIONS Candidates for governor, Spokane-area legislative positions and Spokane County Commissioner were asked whether they support the state Department of Ecology’s March 19 decision to phase out grass burning in Washington. Here are the candidates’ responses:

Governor Gary Locke (D) yes Ellen Craswell(R) did not respond

3rd District Senate Rep. Lisa Brown (D) yes Sen. John Moyer (R) “not totally”

3rd District House Alex Wood (D) yes Brandon Hill (R) yes Jeff Gombosky (D) yes Ken Whitehall(R) did not respond

4th District Senate George Orr(D) yes Bob McCaslin (R) did not respond

4th District House Rep. Larry Crouse (R) yes Frank Galizia (D) yes Rep. Mark Sterk (R) yes

6th District House Brad Benson (R) undecided Judy Personett (D) yes Rep. Duane Sommers (R) yes Jerry Hopkins (D) yes

Spokane County Commissioners Ron Hormann (D) yes Kate McCaslin (R) no, wants local solution John Roskelley (D) yes Lila Howe (R) did not respond

This sidebar appeared with the story: CANDIDATE POSITIONS Candidates for governor, Spokane-area legislative positions and Spokane County Commissioner were asked whether they support the state Department of Ecology’s March 19 decision to phase out grass burning in Washington. Here are the candidates’ responses:

Governor Gary Locke (D) yes Ellen Craswell(R) did not respond

3rd District Senate Rep. Lisa Brown (D) yes Sen. John Moyer (R) “not totally”

3rd District House Alex Wood (D) yes Brandon Hill (R) yes Jeff Gombosky (D) yes Ken Whitehall(R) did not respond

4th District Senate George Orr(D) yes Bob McCaslin (R) did not respond

4th District House Rep. Larry Crouse (R) yes Frank Galizia (D) yes Rep. Mark Sterk (R) yes

6th District House Brad Benson (R) undecided Judy Personett (D) yes Rep. Duane Sommers (R) yes Jerry Hopkins (D) yes

Spokane County Commissioners Ron Hormann (D) yes Kate McCaslin (R) no, wants local solution John Roskelley (D) yes Lila Howe (R) did not respond


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email