Out of Control Policy Blog

Season's Scrooging from Maricopa County

I must confess to having had a major laugh today to my seven-year old's reaction to the Maricopa County (Arizona) Air Quality Department's issuance of it's fifth no-burn day since Christmas Eve. Her reaction to our local government Scrooge: "that's not just stupid, it's idiotic!"

As a very practical matter, I have to agree, federal threats over the County's violation of particulate matter standards notwithstanding. At a time when people are generally frustrated with big government at all levels, how out-of-touch is it to start rolling out a sequence of burn-bans on Christmas Eve, the moment that families typically come together to do enjoy things like eggnog and presents around a fireplace? Or New Years Eve celebrations, for that matter.

Better dial up the fireplace DVD in Maricopa County though, or else you're looking at a $50 to $250 fine if some bureaucrat in a truck spots the smoke from your chimney. The good news is that despite government's urging, citizens don't seem willing to turn in their neighbors for ignoring this nanny-state overreach—per the Arizona Republic (emphasis mine):

Last week's Christmas Eve no-burn advisory upset hundreds of people, who vented their anger on azcentral.com and in phone calls and e-mails to the county Air Quality Department. [...]

Even with warnings about the health risks of polluting the air, many people went ahead and burned Christmas Eve fires anyway. The 24-hour average for fine-particle pollution was 39.6 micrograms per cubic meter on Christmas Eve. The next day, the average spiked to 87.6 micrograms per cubic meter. [...]

Even with the smoke clearly visible in the air, the county did not receive one complaint from residents, who are encouraged to report violators.

Nanny Scrooge's response is typically tone-deaf:

"People would say, 'How dare you tell me not to burn on Christmas?' " said Holly Ward, a spokeswoman for the county agency.

"We don't do this based on what day of the week it is. It's based on meteorology and air-quality data. The air was really bad on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so we put restrictions in place to keep people from adding to pollution."

I hope it's not lost on Maricopa taxpayers that the whole reason for these spoilsport moves is that the Feds have threatened to withhold highway money from the County if it doesn't meet a D.C.-set standard of so many micrograms per cubic meter of some tiny particles between 7 to 28 times smaller than a human hair (PM10 and PM2.5, respectively). Given all of the other naturally-occuring airborne dusts out there that we have no hope of controlling, I, for one, feel much safer that our wise leaders in D.C. are on top of these two.

Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


« State Revenues Continue to Fall | Main | California Beggin': State Seeks Billions… »




Out of Control Policy Archives