Before the Air Quality Management District's vote, the California Legislature unanimously passed a resolution calling for the protection of beach bonfires. That was purely ceremonial, but what it does next might not be.
The AQMD's new rules approved on Friday affect about 10 percent of the fire pits in Orange County. None in Los Angeles County fall under the new regulations.
Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) says he’s considering introducing legislation that would essentially un-do the new restrictions, which prohibit bonfires within 700 feet of homes.
“The legislature has the power to protect our beach bonfires and we’ll be looking to do that,” Allen told KPCC after the AQMD meeting. (Read a full statement he released later below.)
The California Coastal Commission sent a letter to the AQMD challenging the studies it did that showed beach fires are harmful to public health. The commission said the new rules are arbitrary and could be challenged in court.
Allen says the disagreement between the two agencies leads to questions about which will take precedence.
“That’s going to be a fun fight to watch develop,” he said. “Clearly, we’re on the side of the coastal commission. We want to protect beach access for all Californians.”
AQMD Board Member and Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson – who opposed the new rules – was not optimistic that the board’s 7-6 decision would be overturned.
“This agency certainly can regulate health risks and they just did,” said Nelson. “If you’re within that 700 foot barrier, you’re going to have a very tough time lighting wood on fire.”
Nelson said the coastal commission could insist that no fire pits move, but they would have to burn something else, like propane.
Either way, the vast majority of the hundreds of fire pits on L.A. and O.C. beaches won’t be extinguished. The new regulations go into effect next spring.