In Washington state, Patricia Hoffman's community group, Save Our Summers, successfully led the fight to end bluegrass-field burning that was choking the city of Spokane (HCN, 12/22/97). Now she's launched another air-clearing campaign, this time against wheat-stubble burning.
"This is the
first year that we haven't had plumes rising in Spokane County,"
Hoffman says. "What we have instead is a kind of relentless,
constant smoke in the air." Save Our Summers is hoping a lawsuit
against the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources
Conservation Service, which has officially approved burning as a
soil-conservation practice, will help clear the
Eastern Washington may face a trade-off:
clear skies on one hand, clear streams and productive farmland on
the other. Farmers say if they don't burn, they must till their
fields. This loosens the soil, which then easily erodes - just what
farmers want to avoid as the federal agency pushes them to prevent
soil loss and keep salmon streams clear.
plaintiffs allege that the agency violated environmental law by
failing to examine, in an environmental impact statement, how smoke
from burning wheat fields aggravates respiratory diseases like
asthma and cystic fibrosis. In late October, the agency asked the
court to dismiss the case, saying that its action was too minor to
require an EIS.
Pollution levels do rise during
the wheat-stubble burning season, the Spokane County Air Pollution
Control Authority agrees, but it notes that the season is also
prime time for forest fires, dust storms and other pollution