When ‘Smoke Isn’t Smoke’: Missteps in Air Quality Regulation of Wildfire Smoke
Wildfire Policy: Law and Economics Perspectives, 2011
Posted: 12 May 2011 Last revised: 1 Dec 2013
Date Written: May 10, 2011
Decades of fire suppression have taken their toll on America’s forests. One legacy is severe wildfires. Prescribed burning is considered an effective tool in reducing the incidence of naturally-ignited wildfires and maintaining ecosystem health. Nevertheless, experts estimate that levels of prescribed burning in the U.S. are below levels that would be considered optimal for reducing wildfire damage. This paper examines the impact of the Clean Air Act regulatory framework upon wildfire smoke, concluding that distinctions between smoke originating from unplanned wildfires and prescribed burns results in the underutilization of prescribed fire. In order to ensure that the adverse health effects of wildfire smoke is taken into account in air quality planning, and not just that emanating from prescribed fire, we recommend eliminating regulatory exemptions for smoke from wildfires for air quality compliance purposes.
Keywords: wildfire, prescribed burning, air quality, public health, economics
JEL Classification: K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation