Open-burning law strengthened in Allegheny County |
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Aaron Aupperlee

Allegheny County Council members strengthened the county’s open burning regulations Wednesday, limiting what people can burn outside and how far away from neighbors they must be.

Council voted 9-4 to adopt new regulations drafted by the Allegheny County Health Department.

The new regulations limit outdoor fires to clean wood, propane, natural gas, charcoal, fire logs, wood pellets and smokeless fire starters. Fires must be at least 15 feet from the nearest dwelling or property line, according to the regulations.

Jamin Bogi, policy and outreach coordinator for the Group Against Smog and Pollution, said the organization frequently receives complaints from residents about neighbors with bonfires or other outdoor fires. Representatives from Clean Water Action and the American Lung Association said the regulations will improve the county’s air quality.

“Burning wood or worse, illegally burning trash,” worsens environmental conditions, Valessa Souter-Kline of PennFuture said in speaking in favor of the regulations.

No residents spoke against the new regulations, but council members raised concerns. Councilwoman Sue Means, R-Bethel Park, urged council members to vote against the new regulations because it was not clear how they will be enforced and because they do not provide an exemption for someone who has spent thousands of dollars on an outdoor fireplace that is now illegal. Councilwoman Heather Heidelbaugh, R-Mt. Lebanon, wondered if the county could face legal action over the changes.

Councilman Nick Futules, D-Oakmont, agreed and wanted enforcement measures and an exemption written into the new regulations. Futultes, Means, Heidelbaugh and Councilwoman Jan Rea, R-McCandless, voted against the new regulations.

Council also voted 9-3 to approve a lease with Consol Energy for natural gas drilling at the county airport in West Mifflin. Consol is drilling at Pittsburgh International Airport but has no plans to drill at the county airport, company spokeswoman Kate O’Donovan said.

Council members Barbara Daly Danko, D-Regent Square; Jim Ellenbogen, D-Banksville, and Means voted against the lease. Heidelbaugh abstained because her law firm represents Consol.

Danko felt council may have both helped and hurt the county’s air quality on Wednesday.

“It’s incredibly ironic to me that we are passing a bill that has to do with wood burning to protect air quality at the same time we are approving drilling in a densely populated part of the county,” she said at the end of the meeting.

Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or [email protected].

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