Fairbanks, North Pole air quality

An inversion traps air pollution in this January 2015 file photo

FAIRBANKS — A task force to work on new smoke pollution measures for the Fairbanks North Star Borough is being assembled, and residents can apply to join. The application deadline is 5 p.m. Wednesday.

The Air Quality Stakeholders group will “identify, evaluate and recommend community-based solutions to bring the area into compliance with federal air quality standards for fine particulates (PM 2.5),” according to a news release. 

The panel will have 33 voting members from a variety of sectors, including military, industry, academia, transportation and environmental groups. Government employees will participate in discussions but won’t vote. Stakeholder group members will be selected on Friday by Jim Dodson, president and CEO of the Fairbanks Economic Development Corp., Borough Mayor Karl Kassel, Fairbanks Mayor Jim Matherly and North Pole Mayor Bryce Ward.

“It is important that the AQ Stakeholders Group represents as broad a cross section of our community as possible to achieve a balanced and viable plan,” Kassel said in a prepared statement.

The group will serve as the community voice to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “on a reasonable path forward toward attainment for our community,” he said.

The borough faces a Dec. 31, 2019, deadline under the federal Clean Air Act to reduce episodes of pollution brought on mainly by wood smoke on cold winter days when the air is stagnant.

North Pole has some of the highest PM 2.5 particulate pollution in the nation, according to a monitor on Hurst Road.

The stakeholders group will be expected to balance health concerns — PM 2.5 has been associated in multiple scientific studies with illnesses of the heart and lungs — with economic issues and personal property rights.

A professional facilitator will lead the group. Applicants must offer their qualifications and explain why they want to serve. The time commitment is all day one weekday a month through October or November.

Residents can obtain an application online at fnsb.us, aqfairbanks.com or investfairbanks.com. Hard copies are available at the borough mayor’s office, the borough Air Quality Office or the Fairbanks Economic Development Corp. office.

Fairbanks was designated by the EPA as a serious nonattainment area for PM 2.5 in 2017, and tougher pollution controls are required under the Clean Air Act, the news release states. 

Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7587. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMborough.