Coastal Commission wants more information on Newport Beach’s charcoal-only bonfires
BY NICOLE SHINE
NEWPORT BEACH – How long will Newport Beach give away bags of charcoal? What do beachgoers say about charcoal-fueled bonfires? Has the city studied the health effects of charcoal bonfires?
In an Aug. 15 letter, California Coastal Commission staff asked for answers to these questions and dozens of others, writing in response to the city’s permit application, which commission staff called “incomplete.”
The application, submitted in July, was for a pilot program requiring beachgoers to burn charcoal, rather than wood, in the city’s 60 fire rings.
In practice, however, the city has gone ahead with the charcoal-only program since March without a permit from the Coastal Commission, the state agency that oversees coastal access. The city said the program is in response to an air-quality rule that generally bans open-burning in fire rings within 700 feet of homes.
In the August letter, commission staff asked for specifics about the charcoal-only program, including how long it would last, if the city had looked at the ill effects of burning charcoal, and whether the program has lessened the use of fire rings.
The city’s application says that the same number of people are mostly using fire rings now compared to earlier, when wood-burning was allowed. Commission staff, in response, asked for hard numbers. They didn’t give the city a deadline to respond.
Tara Finnigan, a Newport Beach spokeswoman, said Wednesday the city was still reviewing the Coastal Commission letter and wasn’t sure when they might respond. She said the city will give away free charcoal at least through Labor Day.
Since March, the city has given away about $12,000 worth of charcoal, officials confirmed. The city also budgeted $150,000 this year for staff to educate beachgoers and enforce the charcoal-only rule.
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