Tuesday, August 4, 2020

**PRESS RELEASE** FDACS SMOKES THE GLADES, AGAIN New sugar field burning rules are a day late and a dollar short

August 4, 2020
Contacts: Steve Messam, smessam@me.com, 989-400-4225
Patrick Ferguson, patrick.ferguson@sierraclub.org, 954-288-4234

New sugar field burning rules are a day late and a dollar short 

November 2019 Sugarcane burn in Belle Glade Florida 
FDACS released an update to pre-harvest sugar field burning regulations today, but the changes apparently do little to protect Florida residents living in and around the Glades. Just like with phase 1, these ill-defined changes appear to offer no real impact on the health and wellbeing of the Glades and its people. Current wind-based sugarcane burning regulations deny burn permits if winds are projected to blow the toxic smoke and ash plumes toward the more affluent Eastern Palm Beach County and Eastern Martin County communities.

The less than detailed changes announced today beg a few questions:  Do the new zones, or modified zones, afford Belle Glade, South Bay, Pahokee protection from all burning when wind is blowing their direction (as it has been afforded to Wellington and other communities in Eastern Palm Beach County in the past)? And what about Indiantown, Ortona, or Clewiston?  When will these communities get equal protection? Do you have to live in a community that meets a certain population density to be worthy of protection? 

Belle Glade resident Anne Haskell said:  “What we need is the first phase of an eventual end to pre-harvest sugar field burning.  Now is the perfect time to start the first phase with a 27-30 mile burn ban buffer around our communities. We have been asking the Commissioner for this buffer to no avail.” 

Robert Mitchell, Belle Glade resident stated:  “This is a shame we have current leadership that is not willing to fight for the safety and health of their constituents. It is common sense that with a pandemic rising, any pollution that could exacerbate such a virus should be removed as a threat. Nikki Fried, please consider stronger protections for the betterment of my community.” 

“Our lives have yet to be prioritized by Commissioner Fried. We saw how last year’s regulation changes had no impact on the smoke and ash we regularly suffer for 8 months each year.  Even now, when the pandemic adds a further threat to those who get smoked out by pre-harvest burning, and the recent CDC guidelines recommending burn bans during the pandemic, FDACS leaves us without real protection,” stated Belle Glade resident, Pastor Steve Messam.