Initiative to strip Fairbanks borough of power to regulate..

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Initiative to strip Fairbanks borough of power to regulate..

Postby Wilberforce » Thu May 15, 2014 8:28 pm

Initiative to strip Fairbanks borough of power to regulate home heating gathering signatures

Posted: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 6:36 am, Tue May 13, 2014.

By Matt Buxton

FAIRBANKS — An initiative to stop the Fairbanks North Star Borough from regulating air pollution or home heating is back.

The borough clerk’s office last week issued signature books for the “Home Heating Protection Initiative,” a retread of two previous initiatives that bar the borough from imposing regulations of any kind on home heating devices or air pollution.

The language of the initiative reads: “The borough shall not, in any way, regulate, prohibit, curtail, nor issue fines or fees associated with, the sale, distribution, or operation of heating appliances or any type of combustible fuel.”

Heating appliances are defined to include everything from oil furnaces and wood stoves to coal burners and wood-fired hydronic heaters.

The petitioners, led by Assemblyman Michael Dukes and North Pole Republican Rep. Tammie Wilson, must collect at least 1,474 signatures from borough voters before July 11 to appear on the Oct. 7, 2014, local election ballot. That’s a shorter timeline than the usual 90-day window because the initiative was filed so close to the election, said Borough Clerk Nanci Ashford-Bingham.

Local clean air advocates, who opposed earlier initiatives, declined to comment on the initiative Monday night, but were meeting on the issue.

Wilson had not returned a request for comment, and Dukes could not be immediately reached on Monday night.

Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins said he opposes the initiative, citing the 63 days in North Pole and 33 days in Fairbanks this winter that were out of compliance with clean air standards.

“I don’t think it’s the right way to go about things,” he said. “I didn’t agree with it before, and I don’t agree with it now. ... I think that the lack of control measures contributes to that and they contribute to poor health.”

The borough’s efforts to provide local control for the issue have been greatly scaled back since the initiatives became law. The borough had put forward measures that would have aimed to deal with the dirtiest of burners through a warning and fine system, but it never went into effect.

Now the borough runs the voluntary wood stove exchange program and is exploring a public campaign to ask people to voluntarily stop burning wood on heavily polluted air quality days, including for monetary incentives for participating households.

The state has assumed the bulk of the responsibility for cleaning up the air and has put forward a plan for regulating wood stoves, including a possible burn ban on particularly bad days. The state has said that such bans would be narrowly defined and have allowances for low-income or single-heating source households.

Fairbanks and North Pole have suffered from years of bad wintertime air pollution as wood use increased in response to high oil prices. The state and borough are under pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency for violating federal clean air standards.

Air pollution of fine particulate matter, which is mostly generated by wood in the Fairbanks North Star Borough, has been linked to increases in hospital visits for lung and heart issues.

Voters passed previous initiatives barring the borough from regulating air quality by wide margins in 2010 and 2012.

One voter’s initiative, an initiative renewing the borough’s tax cap, has already been approved for the fall ballot. Proposition 1 caps the amount of taxes the borough can collect from property owners and is put forward by the Interior Taxpayers’ Association.

The tax cap has been popular and has passed with wide support, and the borough’s recently approved budget came in well under the tax cap.

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

source ... f6878.html
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