About Puget Sound Clean Air – On the day after July 4 when America celebrated with bombs bursting in air, I’m preparing my case to argue before the Pollution Control Hearings Board about chestnuts (actually hot-dogs) roasting on an open fire.
This past February 21 I received – at which time I first became aware – a Civil Penalty citation in the amount of $1,000 from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCA) that we had “caused or allowed unlawful outdoor burning” during a burn ban at one of our rental properties shortly before Christmas two-months-and-two-weeks previously.
However, the PSCA folks “proposed to settle” by suggesting I make out a check within thirty days for $500 and, if I never let it happen again – at least over the next two years of probationary status – then they would clear the air, not to mention my record.
Or, declining its benevolent offer, I could appeal.
Now that I have formally appealed, PSCA doesn’t want to go there. To a hearing. Which makes me wonder why? Once the smoke clears from this holiday weekend, when PSCA is back in the office on Monday, I’m expecting an answer as we’ve traded phone messages. So stay tuned.
Of course, now that it appears I may be off the hook for paying anything – I’m not compromising there even if the appeal appears otherwise inevitable pending the conditions of the terms of the compromise PSCA suggests – I could just let it go at that.
However, could it be that others have received similar ‘benevolent’ citations from PSCA in which a discounted, half-off (pay $500 instead of $1,000) offer seemed like a good deal in contrast to the cumbersome and convoluted court-like, attorney-involved, time-consuming, sleep-depriving, witness-calling, pre-hearing, hearing, site-visit, deposition-questioning, and so forth as described in the four-page, fine-print, yellow handout the PSCA included in their certified letter wherein they suggested pay-up or else see you in court: ‘reference enclosed document – the yellow sheet’?
I suspicion a similar scenario like one played out here in Lakewood years ago when we found ourselves in violation of a city code which I also appealed given I requested and obtained from Lakewood City Hall a copy of its code enforcement policy procedures. Twenty-two pages long the gist was a several-step process in which officials were to (a) notify the owner of the property of said violation; (b) enable a 30-day correction period; (c) thus endeth the matter and everyone lives happily ever after provided (b) was satisfactory; or (d) pay the fine or (e) see you in court.
I wasn’t happy given steps a-c had been bypassed and instead a pay-the-fine/court summons had been issued from the get-go.
That day in court I won – and so did everybody else who was there for the same reason, many of them from Tillicum – given the city had violated its own rules.
But the question I had then I have now with regards the PSCA Agency: how many have opted to pay the half-off ‘good deal’ discounted fee for their infractions because they had not the time or the wherewithal or for whatever reason could not, would not, fight city hall, PSCA, or other perceived governmental benevolent bully?
Maybe – as a result of my follow-up letter to PSCA in which I reminded them that a representative of their agency spoke at our December, 2012 neighborhood meeting about wood smoke, burn bans, and their wood-stove and fire place insert exchange program; and that their news attachments about such matters – including the recommendation to sign up for on-line burn ban alerts – were sent in seven various forms to our email database of 650; and that to this day nearly two years later we continue to make available PSCA materials at our monthly meetings – maybe that’s why the PSCA doesn’t want to go before the “impartial Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board Environmental and Land Use Hearings Office, the members of which claim no affiliation with the Department of Ecology or any other agency but are independent having been appointed by the governor and confirmed by the State Senate.”
Because when the air clears it’s quite clear the PSCA Agency’s claim that I “caused or allowed” the fire in question amounts to blowing smoke since I (a) had no knowledge of the incident and (b) have spared no quarter in making the known-world aware of how to keep the air breathable.
For which reasons I’m not inclined to spend more quarters – certainly not financially – to serve their purposes, whatever they allow them to be.
Relatedly, what is the relationship between PSCA and local jurisdictions?
According to the July 7, 2014 Lakewood City Council Agenda Packet, on page 085 the Community Safety Resource Team (CRST) update included a discussion on the matter with the council as to “whether the CSRT received calls about burning ban violations.” This brief entry also noted that “enforcements are handled by Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.”
While I’m not yet able to say, in Paul Harvey’s words, “And now you know the rest of the story,” I aim to find out. I’ve filed a Public Disclosure Request about what was the rest of the discussion of the city council with regards PSCA and what their relationship has been since the PSCA began imposing $1,000-fines (minus discounts).
In the meantime it might interest the reader to know that the reason PSCA is all hot and bothered about fires and smoke is because the latter, it says, creates “fine particle pollution associated with serious health effects.”
To hear the PSCA tell it, “The tiny size of these pollutants allows them to be easily inhaled, bypassing the immune system and proceeding deep into the lungs, where they can cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems, including premature death.”
Almost word-for-word the gloom and doom associated with roasting chestnuts over an open fire (Christmas) was-and-is blasted from bottle rockets, hissed from ash snakes, exploded from Roman Candles and photographed as so-much fun and entertainment every July 4 (and July 3, 5, 6 etc.), as well as baseball games.
Side-note here: Fireworks can obscure the playing field which could make the difference between a dropped fly ball I suppose and thus the outcome of the game.
“Cheap (actually expensive) thrills with toxic consequences” of our frivolity on the Fourth include, but are not limited to: “lung cancer, skin irritation, wart formation, respiratory tract irritation, reproduction hazards, and plant and animal poisoning.”
But pictures of bombs bursting in air go in the scrapbook.
Picture-proof you’re in violation of roasting hotdogs can land you in court.
Unless of course you take advantage of the discount.