Michigan Act 102 amends open burning laws

This act amends the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (PA 451 of 1994) to protect the state’s environment and natural resources by increasing control of air pollution and compliance with the clean air act.

Beginning 180 days after the effective date of this amendatory act, which was signed on April 19, 2012, individuals in Michigan may no longer conduct open burning of waste that contains plastic, rubber, foam, chemically treated wood, textiles, electronics, chemicals or hazardous materials. Residents can still burn yard waste such as brush and leaves, and household waste such as cardboard and paper products.

Those who violate the new act will be charged with a state civil infraction and will be subject to the following:

  • First offense within a 3-year period: a warning by the judge or magistrate.
  • Second offense within a 3-year period: a civil fine of not more than $75.00.
  • Third offense within a 3-year period: a civil fine of not more than $150.00.
  • Fourth or subsequent offense within a 3-year period: a civil fine of not more than $300.00.

Open burning is defined by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality as “the burning of unwanted materials where smoke and other emissions are released directly into the air without passing through a chimney or stack.” Common materials burned include paper, trees, brush, leaves, grass and other debris.

The department explains that “open burning” also includes “incineration devices that do not control the combustion air to maintain an adequate temperature and do not provide sufficient residence time for complete combustion.”

Open burning poses a hazard to both residents and the environment. It not only poses a fire hazard, but also introduces annoying odors and dangerous pollutants into the air that can obscure visibility, dirty surfaces and compromise the air for those who have respiratory conditions.

Open burning of grass clippings or leaves is prohibited in any municipality having a population of 7,500 or more, unless specifically authorized by local ordinance. If such an ordinance is enacted by a local municipality, they must report their new ordinance to the department of natural resources within 30 days of enactment. Smaller municipalities may choose to enact ordinances limiting the burning of leaves and grass clipping. Residents should contact their local officials to learn what it acceptable in their area.

This act does not prohibit a person from conducting open burning of wooden fruit or vegetable storage bins constructed from untreated lumber if all of the following requirements are met:

  • The burning is conducted for disease or pest control.
  • The burning is not conducted in a location prohibited by the Michigan administrative code, in a city or village, or within 1,400 feet outside the boundary of a city or village.

A congressionally-chartered-patriotic organization that disposes of an unserviceable flags of the United States by open burning is not subject to regulation or penalty for violating a state law or local ordinance pertaining to open burning of materials or substances.

For more information about this new act, visit the Michigan Legislature website and search for “house bill 4207.”

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