Smoke from Kansas returns to make air quality poor; Nebraska’s legal options limited

Smoke from Kansas returns to make air quality poor; Nebraska’s legal options limited
Updated 6:38 p.m. Courtesy EPA

Farmers and ranchers in Kansas continue to burn land to produce better grass for cattle, but eastern Nebraska residents are paying the price again this week. South winds are pushing smoke into Nebraska, causing dangerous air quality conditions Wednesday.

Johnson, Pawnee, Lancaster, Jefferson and Gage Counties are seeing the poorest air qualities, including Lincoln, Beatrice, Fairbury, Tecumseh and Pawnee City. However, all of southeast Nebraska and the extreme southwest corner of Iowa was seeing a haze and smelling smoke Wednesday morning.

Kansas usually burns the Flint Hills acres around March and April every year and farmers and ranchers are allowed to burn up to 2 million acres. A Lincoln attorney says that Nebraska has limited legal options regarding the Kansas smoke.

Lincoln lawyer Steve Mossman, who specializes in agricultural and environmental law, doesn’t think Nebraska could successfully sue Kansas authorities to regulate prescribed burns because courts are reluctant to force them to regulate against their will. He says a better option is cooperation and better communication between the two states.

It’s recommended that people with respiratory conditions (such as asthma or lung disease), heart disease or elderly adults/child stay indoors and avoid strenuous physical activity due to unhealthy levels of smoke in the air.

Residents are advised to keep windows and doors closed and use the “re-circulate” setting when using a vehicle air conditioner. Those who experience difficulty breathing, coughing, tightness in the chest or angina should contact a medical provider.

Check the updated Air Quality Index by clicking here. 

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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