Release 97-25

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                   CONTACT:       Jerry Martin
September 25, 1997                                                                                              Allan Hirsch
                                                                                                                             (916) 322-2990

ARB Approves Rice-Burning Proposal: Forwards Plan to Legislature

        SACRAMENTO - The California Air Resources Board (ARB) today approved a progress report on Sacramento Valley rice straw burning to be forwarded to the Legislature for consideration.

        The report, developed jointly by the ARB and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), outlines the advancement of the mandatory rice straw burning phasedown and the steps being taken to find viable alternatives to burning.

        ARB Chairman John Dunlap said, "Cost-effective alternatives to burning are critical for complete success in phasing out rice straw burning in the Sacramento Valley. Continued effort at the federal, state and local levels will be exerted to use new technologies that will protect public health and farmers."

        The biggest problem with burning rice straw occurs during certain weather conditions when the emissions of smoke and other pollutants into the atmosphere results in adverse effects on ambient air quality, including visibility and public health. Although burning occurs in both the spring and fall months, air quality problems and the recorded number of complaints are greater during the fall due to poor meteorological conditions.

       As the report underscores, alternatives to burning and incorporation are crucial for the phasedown's success. Experimentation with producing rice straw paper, ethanol, construction material and rice wine from agricultural rice straw have been somewhat successful, but needs entrepreneurial leadership to become viable alternatives to burning. The report sets goals for cultivating commercial alternatives to rice straw burning, including coordination for research and development from federal, state and local governments and private industry. Permit trading and a public education campaign are also under consideration.

        Actions are continuing in accordance with 1991 legislation to curtail all Sacramento Valley rice straw burning by 2000, except in cases where 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.

        The Air Resources Board is a department of the California Environmental Protection Agency. ARB's mission is to promote and protect public health, welfare, and ecological resources through effective reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering effects on the economy. The ARB oversees all air pollution control efforts in California to attain and maintain health based air quality standards.

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