- Associated Press - Thursday, December 22, 2016

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas environmental group is urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to order the state to impose tighter controls on grass burning in the Flint Hills region.

The Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club wants the agency to order the state Department of Health and Environment to adopt a mitigation plan to protect the region’s air quality, the Lawrence Journal-World (https://bit.ly/2hvaRzB ) reported.

Ranchers in the Flint Hills burn grasslands in the spring to kill off invasive weeds and shrubs, and promote growth of native grasses for livestock. The burning creates thick smoke that some officials said is a concern for people with respiratory issues like asthma.

The state’s current “Smoke Mitigation Plan,” dating back to 2010, aims to reduce the number of days when ozone and other pollutants’ levels exceed federal health guidelines.

Kansas’ Sierra Club Air Quality Committee Chairman Craig Volland said in the first five years the smoke plan went into effect, Kansas communities had more days of pollutants exceeding federal limits than it had in the five years before the plan was initiated. Kansas winds can sometimes even cause eastern Nebraska communities to experience the pollutants.

Volland said due to the coming end of the Obama administration, the EPA might not issue any orders for Kansas.

“I think this thing is going to be pretty much under the radar for the first year when there’s going to be a long confirmation hearing for the new EPA administrator,” Volland said. “Even under other new administrations, it takes a long time to get around to assigning the regional administrators. I think they’re going to be arguing about so many things (at the national level), they won’t get around to this for quite a while.”

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Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, https://www.ljworld.com


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