The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly approved an ordinance Thursday that’s intended to enable more area residents to qualify for a borough program that helps them pay to replace their older woodstove or other type of solid-fuel-burning heating appliance for a new cleaner-burning unit.
Assembly members passed the ordinance introduced by Lance Roberts to fix a problem in regulations the Assembly approved last year to tighten the borough’s Air Quality Program. But Roberts says the new regs kept some residents from qualifying for the both the woodstove-changeout program and the so-called NOASH designation that authorizes people to use borough-approved cleaner-burning woodstoves during Stage 1 or Stage 2 air-pollution alerts.
“The thought process that the majority of the Assembly used at the time was that those who didn’t qualify would be able to use the woodstove-changeout program to get a stove that would qualify,” Roberts said during Thursday’s meeting. “As it turned out, the EPA put some parameters on there that didn’t work with that. So we now have a gap of people who can’t burn and yet can’t get a NO-ASH.”
The Assembly had to apply the new restrictions because the Environmental Protection Agency last year declared Fairbanks and North Pole a serious nonattainment area, due to frequent episodes of excessive air pollution. But Mayor Karl Kassel says the borough didn’t intend to make some people ineligible for either the woodstove changeout or NOASH – which stands for No Other Adequate Source of Heat.
“It is unfortunate that this gap was created in the original legislation, so we’re totally on-board with fixing that,” Kassel said.
Borough Air Quality Program Manager Nick Czarnecki says the tighter regulations required EPA-certified woodstoves and other so-called solid-fuel-burning heating appliances to emit no more than 2.5 grams of particles known as PM2.5 per hour. He said in an interview before the meeting that the regulation excluded some homes and business with newer EPA-certified woodstoves from being eligible for a NOASH designation because they emit more than 2.5 grams of the particulates per hour.
“A small subset of devices that were non-borough listed” will now be eligible for the borough programs, Czarnecki said. “For example, a 3.5 gram (per-hour emitting) stove that’s relatively clean – that stove wouldn’t be eligible for the NOASH and it wouldn’t be eligible for a ‘cordwood-to-cordwood’ device with the changeout program.”
Kassel introduced a substitute for Roberts’ amendment that included a provision to enable EPA-certified heating appliances that were built after 1998 and that have an emissions-control device called a catalyst to be eligible for a NOASH designation. An amendment to the substitute by Roberts requires the catalysts to be replaced periodically, in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications.
The Assembly approved the final version of the ordinance on an 8-to-0 vote. Assemblyman Andrew Gray was absent.
Editor's note: Links to information about all the borough's efforts to clean up the Fairbanks area's air is available on the Air Quality Division website.