Pollution Officials Hold Emergency Meet on Bonfire Bill

The emotionally-charged debate over removing beach bonfire rings is heating up this morning, with an abruptly-scheduled meeting on the issue.

Board members at the air pollution agency South Coast Air Quality Management District or AQMD are set to discuss opposing state legislation that would strip the agency of its power to regulate beach bonfires, following the agency’s decision to ban many of the rings.

The legislative committee meeting started at 9 a.m. and is not being live-streamed.

(Click here to read the agenda.)

There are already questions about whether the public was given enough notice of the meeting.

Huntington Beach activist Chris Epting said that despite 24-hour notice standards, the agenda was missing from AQMD’s website late Thursday morning. “It was not posted until almost noon,” Epting wrote in an email to district spokesman Sam Atwood on Thursday.

And Ryan Hanretty, capitol director for state Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, said the agenda was not listed on the website up to about 12:20 p.m..

Meanwhile, the agency’s spokesman disputed their accounts.

“I’m certain it was available on the website all day starting prior to 9 a.m.,” Atwood wrote in an email.

It also appears the public can attend the meeting from board Chairman Bill Burke’s home in Brentwood, which the agenda lists as a remote meeting location.

The house is among three affluent homes listed on the agenda as teleconferencing locations. The others are in Beverly Hills and Rolling Hills Estates.

The proposed law, Assembly Bill 1102, was introduced by Allen and Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton. It would take away AQMD’s power to ban beach bonfire rings.

“Beach bonfires contained in fire rings should be allowed on all beaches in California,” the bill states, calling the bonfires “an inexpensive recreational activity and are enjoyed by all the members of our community regardless of socioeconomic class.”

“The south coast district shall not prohibit a person from engaging in a beach burning for a recreational, ceremonial, or open burning conducted in a public coastal area marked by an accumulation of sand,” it adds.

The bill is expected to go before the Assembly’s Natural Resources Committee on Jan. 13.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.