“According to what I’m hearing from health professionals, the allergen plaguing state workers and others here in central Oklahoma is cedar pollen and now they have a name for the symptoms: Cedar Fever.” said state Rep. Richard Morrissette (D-OKC).
Record numbers of Oklahomans are seeking treatment for a variety of flu-like symptoms and the culprit in many cases is cedar pollen, according to reports. Symptoms include headache, nausea, feeling feverish without a temperature, swelling, muscle aches, sore throat, itchy eyes, sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes.
In 2011, Morrissette passed from the House and Senate HB1486, the Woody Biomass Energy Initiative, to organize state support via a commission for the development of alternative energy solutions using cedar biomass. The bill would have encouraged the harvest of millions of cedar trees. But, on April 20, 2011, Governor Mary Fallin chose to veto the legislation saying that previous legislation by Morrissette should suffice: HB2686, the Eastern Red Cedar Registry Board. However, that measure dealt with the development of a data set to be gleaned from individuals registering with the board with the goal of linking land owners to harvesters and possible markets for cedar trees. A result oriented census was to be created from the registered members’ activities but three years post passage Morrissette says the board has failed completely at addressing any of the bill’s objectives and to ask the board to take on oversight of biofuel development is not a viable option.
“I have reintroduced the cedar biomass bill as HB1656 -2013 and I am confident that we have proven the need for the establishment of the commission. Nearly all 50 states have now officially addressed utilization of biomass to establish a support mechanism and provide guidance in the development of this key alternative energy resource. In this time of Oklahoma drought and wildfires, we need to be collecting underbrush, cedar trees and other woody materials, and, if we can use this material as energy, that just makes good common sense.”
Texas has mostly mountain cedar and Oklahoma has primarily juniperus virginiana or Eastern Red Cedar. Cedar Fever now impacts both states, with cedar proliferation to blame.
“If we don’t start putting these things on the ground for use as a biomass or for furnishings or whatever, it’s conceivable that Cedar Fever could pose an even greater health threat in the very near future. We have individuals developing pneumonia after cedar allergy flare ups. I wouldn’t want to have a child with asthma in this environment.” said Morrissette.
Last session, Morrissette filed cedar bill HB2695-2012 with Sen. Ron Justice as Senate author. That bill was entitled the Oklahoma Resource Reclamation Act and passed the House but failed in a Senate committee due to confusion over land value categorizations. That issue has now been addressed with the assessor’s office and Morrissette has re-filed the bill as HB1515-2013. The focus remains cleaning up unoccupied lands infested with cedar that pose fire hazard and water loss issues.
“With cedar overtaking 700 acres a day in Oklahoma, we lost ground with HB2695’s failure in the Senate but we’re back and ready to try again.” concluded Morrissette.