Any day now, the state is expected to announce which air pollution control measures for Fairbanks and North Pole will be included in a plan to be handed over to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The deadline to produce the plan is Sunday. The EPA has classified the region's air pollution as serious.
“The air quality staff is completing the final tasks to submit the Serious SIP (State Implementation Plan) to the EPA, and to post the SIP and the related information to our website,” Laura Achee, spokeswoman for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, wrote in an email. “The SIP will be submitted to the EPA by the 15th, and our plan at this time is to have it posted on our website by the end of the week. We will put out a press release when the Serious SIP is posted.”
Draft measures were announced in May, and the ensuing public comment period drew a response from dozens, including individuals, organizations, businesses and state leaders.
Regulations suggested in the draft plan include requiring a switch to more-expensive No. 1 fuel oil starting July 1, 2020, for households, businesses and power plants, and mandating removal of certain heating appliances such as older-model wood stoves, coal-fired heaters and outdoor hydronic heaters by 2025.
Limiting the installation of wood stoves in new homes was also part of the draft regulation package along with a change for the type of coal that can be burned and the type of firewood sold.
Also, thresholds for burn bans were proposed to be reduced, resulting in more days when residents would be expected to heat with fuels other than wood and coal.
The pending new regulations are part of an ongoing effort to bring parts of Fairbanks and North Pole into compliance with the Clean Air Act, which sets limits on particulate levels in the air.
Multiple scientific studies suggest that breathing particulates erodes human health and reduces life expectancy.
Episodic pollution levels in parts of Fairbanks and North Pole are almost twice the maximum allowed under the Clean Air Act.
The plan would apply to a federally recognized area known as the nonattainment area, which runs from Fairbanks down the Richardson Highway to North Pole, grabbing the Badger Road corridor. The eastern boundary reaches Chena Hot Springs Road. The western border encompasses the University of Alaska Fairbanks and property south of Chena Ridge Road.
DEC Commissioner Jason Brune has said it will take 10 years to cut the pollution in half. The deadline under the Clean Air Act, however, is Dec. 31, 2019.
Particulate pollution in the borough has improved in recent years, but Fairbanks remains near the top of the EPA’s list of communities with the highest episodic particulate pollution in the nation.
After the cleanup deadline passes, officials anticipate a “failure to attain” determination by the EPA followed by a requirement to develop yet another, more-aggressive plan next year.
Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7545. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMborough.