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Borough, state mull ways to meet EPA standards

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Posted: Thursday, October 4, 2012 12:01 am

FAIRBANKS — In the wake of the passage of Proposition 3, the borough and the state are re-evaluating methods to address air pollution from home heating devices.

Proposition 3, which passed with 53.42 percent of the vote, stops the borough from regulating air pollution from home heating devices in any way. The prohibition comes shortly before the December deadline for the state to submit a plan to the federal Environmental Protection Agency to show how it will meet clean air standards.

Cindy Heil, an environmental program manager with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said the state will be working with the borough to meet those standards.

“DEC’s first step is to continue to work with the borough and determine what air quality improvement programs may or may not still be viable as a result of Proposition 3 passing,” she said. “Once it is known what programs can be used, DEC will analyze those programs in order to determine if it is possible to meet the federal air quality improvement plan requirements to demonstrate attainment.”

Opponents of Proposition 3 worried that giving up borough oversight on air quality issues would mean the state could impose its own versions of the plan.

Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins said the borough needs to see a roughly 25 to 30 percent reduction in air emissions to meet federal standards and said it will be made more difficult without local regulations. Which borough programs will be removed or ended has yet to be decided, he said.

“It says the borough shall not restrict,” he said. “That’s what we have to look at, and we’ll be meeting on that internally and we’ll discuss what are the policies that we’ll have to remove.”

Additional programs could be developed if the current slate of programs come up short, Heil said.

“If the selected programs do not provide enough reduction, then additional programs must be developed and inserted into the model and into the draft plan,” she said. “We would work with the borough to generate ideas, flesh out logistics, determine viability and so on. This is why it is so important to work with the local community.”

If the state fails to meet the December deadline or if the plan fails to satisfy the EPA’s standards, the federal government could cut off highway funding for projects within the area of the borough that doesn’t meet air quality standards or impose additional regulations on new projects. Additionally, the EPA could impose its own air quality program within two years of determining the plan is deficient.

Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544 or follow him on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.

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