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EPA approves failed air quality plan...

PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2017 9:25 pm
by Wilberforce
EPA approves failed air quality plan as a new plan is being drafted

Amanda Bohman / Aug 31, 2017

FAIRBANKS — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved a plan that failed to get the borough into air quality attainment under the federal Clean Air Act, the agency announced this week.

The approval is largely procedural in that the EPA has acknowledged the continued smoke pollution problem in areas of the Fairbanks North Star Borough. The agency has asked for a new plan with stricter control measures by the end of the year.

Local, state and federal air quality officials said the approval is a milestone because now they can focus on the new plan aimed at addressing high levels of particulate pollution caused largely by wood smoke during winter days when the air is stagnant.

The highest levels of episodic PM2.5 pollution in the country are being detected by an air quality monitor in North Pole, the EPA stated in a Tuesday news release.

“The state and borough have worked hard to implement reasonable measures to improve air quality in the Fairbanks North Star Borough and they have met a significant milestone,” Tim Hamlin, director of EPA’s Region 10 Office of Air and Waste, said in a prepared statement. “We are encouraged that they will continue these improvements as they turn their focus to developing a more stringent air quality plan.”

Nick Czarnecki, borough air quality director, said approval of the old plan shows that the state and the borough can cooperate to produce a plan that is “legally defensible.”

He said the borough has made progress under the old plan. The new plan, required after Fairbanks was reclassified from a moderate to a serious nonattainment area earlier this year, will build on successful elements of the old plan.

The Region 10 acting EPA Administrator acted on the old plan on Aug. 21, and the approval has been submitted for publication in the Federal Register, which is where the federal government publishes notices.

According to the Seattle-based Region 10 EPA office, the old plan showed that air quality attainment could not be achieved by the Dec. 31, 2015, EPA deadline.

The Clean Air Act requires plans for areas known as “moderate” to clean the air by a certain date or to show that attainment by that date is impossible.

“We acknowledge that control measures have been adopted into the FNSB Moderate Plan to improve air quality and although the PM2.5 values generally have decreased, they remain high,” the EPA stated in the notice to be filed in the Federal Register.

The agency also said that “high monitored PM2.5 values are not a basis for disapproval of the FNSB Moderate Plan.”

The plan met certain requirements and identified reasonable measures to reduce PM2.5, according to the EPA.

Borough Mayor Karl Kassel said in a prepared statement that he remains resolved to improving air quality.

“The borough will continue to pursue a solution to the problem with the least amount of regulations necessary to be successful,” Kassel said in a prepared statement. “Failure is not an option.”

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

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