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Local Solutions for Clean and Healthy Air in Fairbanks

PostPosted: Sat Mar 03, 2018 5:06 pm
by Wilberforce
News Releases from Region 10
Working Together on Local Solutions for Clean and Healthy Air in Fairbanks

Chris Hladick, U.S. EPA Region 10 Administrator:

When I was asked to lead the Environmental Protection Agency’s Pacific Northwest and Alaska Region, I was excited to bring an Alaskan perspective to the agency and help focus our work with communities and local agencies to protect people’s health and the environment in this great state.

I’ve watched the Fairbanks North Star Borough struggle to meet the particle pollution health standards for over a decade. The health risks are real. The standards are supported by years of scientific studies that are available on EPA’s website.

Particle pollution comes from a variety of sources. However, analysis of air samples collected in the Borough show that wood smoke contributes up to 60 to 80 percent of the particle pollution, depending on location. There is no question that wood smoke is the primary source of particle pollution in the Borough.

While the wood smoke problem is more severe in the Borough, we see the same problem in other areas of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. That is, wintertime temperature inversions, and stagnant air, trapping wood smoke and making the air unhealthy to breathe. Since you can’t change the weather, you need to change your wood burning habits.

Implementing the Borough’s wood smoke curtailment program is critical to achieving the particle standards in the Borough. This means there will be days when cleaner, less polluting, heating options must be used. This is not an easy choice, but when Borough residents understand how their choices affect the air they and their neighbors breathe, it’s the right choice.

We are confident the Borough Air Quality Division is the best agency to implement a local curtailment program. They are your neighbors and are working to manage the program to provide flexibility to those who need it most. Communities in Idaho, Oregon, Montana and Washington have also had success finding local solutions to improve their air quality.

The Borough and your local leaders are making progress and air quality looks to be improving. However, there’s a long way to go to get to clean air and we all need to work together to get there.

Chris Hladick is Regional Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Pacific Northwest and Alaska Region. Before his appointment to EPA, Chris served as commissioner of Alaska’s Department of Commerce and as city manager in Unalaska and Dillingham.

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Federal, state agencies urge local air-pollution solutions at town hall

Amanda Bohman Mar 1, 2018 Updated Mar 1, 2018 (…)

FAIRBANKS — The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation doesn’t want to operate the air-quality program in Fairbanks and North Pole. Neither does the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Officials with both agencies said Wednesday at a town hall meeting that residents are better off addressing smoke pollution locally.

“If it ends up at our level, it’s like solving the problem with a hammer,” said Dan Brown, Fairbanks project manager for the EPA’s Region 10 Office of Air and Waste.

Karl Kassel, mayor of the Fairbanks North Star Borough, hosted the meeting, which drew about 70 people to Noel Wien Public Library. Another town hall meeting on smoke pollution was held in January in North Pole. More meetings are planned, Kassel said.

Many people in attendance criticized local air-quality rules. They shouted. The borough air-quality program is an example of government overreach, some said.

Others said the borough is doing too little to address a serious public-health problem.

About 30 burn bans have been called this winter, but compliance reportedly is low. The borough has issued dozens of warning letters and two tickets to residents suspected of burning violations.

“We’ve got to fix the problem,” Kassel said. “I am trying to do it with as light a hand as I can.”

The borough has until Dec. 31, 2019, to reduce PM 2.5, a harmful particulate and byproduct of emissions, including wood smoke, which is to blame for much of the air pollutionin the area. The smoke lingers when the air is stagnant.

Denise Koch, director of air quality for the DEC, explained what would happen if the state took over air quality enforcement — a possibility if voters in October approve a ballot question aimed at stripping the borough of powers to regulate home heating.

“Of course we would do our very best,” Koch said. “The reality is, we mostly don’t live in this community.”

Koch said the DEC would be spread thin. The agency is leading the effort to draft the highly technical air-quality curtailment proposal required by the EPA.

The state would host fewer air-quality meetings and conferences, she said. It would take the DEC longer to fix bugs in the regulatory system. Experimenting with new technology also would be difficult, Koch said.

“We have a regulatory framework that is not as flexible as the local level,” Koch said. “We don’t have the flexibility to try something — to stick our toe in the water.”

Enforcement probably would be less gentle than what is happening in the borough, she said.

Staff in the mayor’s office are calling people suspected of violating burn bans to discuss solutions.

“I don’t anticipate that we would have those resources at a state level,” Koch said.

Brown discussed what an EPA-operated air quality program might look like.

If a state program failed, the EPA would step in, he said.

“The way that we are going to meet the standard is by reducing wood smoke,” he said. “In order to meet the standards, there is no scenario where there will not be some sort of (burning) curtailment program.”

The EPA could issue citations and set its own fines, Brown said.

The EPA also could start a “sanctions clock.” Under that scenario, Brown said, new businesses would be required to offset their emissions.

The federal government also could freeze federal highway funding, Brown said.

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

source ... 77dc1.html