Fairbanks, North Pole air quality

An inversion traps air pollution in this January 2015 file photo

FAIRBANKS—Former Alaska Attorney General John Burns, former state legislator John Davies and former Assemblyman Rick Solie are among nearly 30 people selected to serve on the new Air Quality Stakeholders Group, according to an announcement Tuesday.

The group will review potential measures aimed at reducing wintertime episodes of smoke pollution in Fairbanks and North Pole. The first meeting is tentatively scheduled for June 5.

Nine openings remain on the 38-member panel. The application deadline has been extended to noon Tuesday, a news release stated.

Among others selected for the panel are Jennifer Schmidt, retired public health nurse and former member of the Fairbanks school board; Deb Hickok, CEO of Explore Fairbanks; Jimmy Fox, of the Fairbanks North Star Borough Sustainability Commission and Citizens for Clean Air; and Scott Eickholt, business manager for Laborers Local 942.

The stakeholders represent different sectors of the borough, including academia, health, commerce, the utilities, labor unions and environmental groups. Individually they represent the Usibelli Coal Mine, Petro Star Inc., Golden Valley Electric Association, Superior Pellets, the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, the American Lung Association, the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce, Doyon Utilities and the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The additional members being sought would represent the financial industry, real estate, the military, the Interior Gas Utility and the North Pole region to name a few.

The group will meet all day once a month to identify, evaluate and recommend community-based solutions for confronting fine particulate pollution, a byproduct of wood smoke.

North Pole has some of the highest PM 2.5 particulate pollution in the nation, according to a monitor on Hurst Road. The borough faces a Dec. 31, 2019, deadline under the federal Clean Air Act to reduce the smoke pollution or face sanctions from the federal government.

A professional facilitator will lead the group, which could make recommendations for new regulations to the Borough Assembly.

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.

The group is being selected 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.

Applicants for the remaining seats must offer their qualifications and explain why they want to serve.

Residents can obtain an application online at aqfairbanks.com. Hard copies are available at the Office of the Borough Mayor, the Air Quality Office or the Fairbanks Economic Development Corp. Completed applications can be submitted via email to airquality@investfairbanks.com or in person at any of the three entities providing applications.

Dodson and the three mayors hope to fill the remaining seats on the stakeholders group by June 1. For more information, contact Hannah Cooper at airquality@investfairbanks.com.

Fairbanks was designated by the EPA as a serious nonattainment area for PM 2.5 in 2017. Tougher pollution controls are required under the Clean Air Act.

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