FAIRBANKS — With no extra time on the clock, the state submitted its plan to tackle the chronically poor wintertime air quality in the Fairbanks area on time.
Facing an end-of-the-year deadline by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation adopted new regulations tackling air pollution on Wednesday.
The regulations combined with regulations already on the books, research and scientific modeling make up Alaska’s State Implementation Plan, a document required by the EPA to prove a state is serious about cleaning up areas that don’t meet the federal Clean Air Act.
“There’s been a large amount of work over the years to getting to this point of pulling the full plan together from all the staff at the borough and the state who have worked on the various parts of the study,” said Alice Edwards, the head of DEC’s Air Quality Division.
The began shopping around potential regulations last year, which made for some particularly heated meetings filled with the anti-regulation crowd. Overall, the testimony was more mixed and the state received more than 300 comments.
This summer, the state adopted emission regulations on wood stoves and other solid fuel burning devices.
But much of the rest of the regulations went back to the drawing board to return with more answers about just how the regulations would work in November.
The regulations included clear standards for air quality episodes and limits on the opacity of the smoke for devices during an episode. It also included guidelines for what could and couldn’t be burned. None of the regulations go into effect until next winter.
The second round of public input gathered 90 public comments, this time mostly from people critical of the regulations not going far enough. The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly endorsed the plan, but many members said they felt it didn’t go far enough.
The regulations adopted on Wednesday are simplified but are tougher thanks to the input from the public, Edwards said.
One element allows the state to issue air quality alerts before air pollution reaches the EPA standards.
“Some aspects of this are a little bit stronger,” Edwards said. “The lower number allows us to trigger some of these a little earlier and provide some emission benefits a little earlier. We’re trying to be responsive to the desire to do more and protect public health.”
The regulations also create a program for wood sellers to disclose and log the moisture content of wood.
The drier the wood, the more efficiently and cleaner it burns. The program as adopted makes it easier for wet wood sellers, who simply have to disclose that the wood is wet and not log its moisture content.
Edwards also said the State Implementation Plan is a flexible document and expected it to continue to grow and change as the state and local community consider new or reworked regulations and programs.
“We do expect that this is a living document and it can change over time,” she said, adding that the document alone will not clean up the borough’s air.
“The plan itself is just a plan and the plan itself is not going to change air quality,” she said. “It’s the actions of the people in the community that will get us there.”
For more information on the air quality regulations and for a copy of the State Implementation Plan, visit http://dec.alaska.gov/air.
Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544. Follow him on Twitter: