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Community Members Give Early Comment On New Air Quality Ordinance

Fairbanks, AK - The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly heard comments from citizens who were concerned about an ordinance that outlines local regulation of air quality.

North Pole Republican Representative Tammie Wilson told the Assembly she was disappointed with the new ordinance. “I mean millions of dollars the state has given for people to change over and we worked very hard for people to change over," she said. "Now we may find out that during some of these episodes, if it’s a stove that produces 2.5 grams or higher, I will not be allowed to utilize those unless it’s my only source of heat.”

Among other actions, the ordinance would prohibit emissions to cross property lines, an action Wilson took issue with. “Also in part D, PM 2.5 emissions crossing property lines," she said, " I don’t allow my smoke to do it, it just doesn’t listen. If I could stop the inversions, I would.” 

Local business owner Steve Vincent told the assembly he spent more than $60-thousand dollars in the last decade to install and upgrade a coal-fired burner at his local business.  He says the ordinance does not clarify if his heating system will be legal.  “In 2008, when we decided to do this, in order for us to stay in business and continue to be able to pay our employees, everybody took a pay cut, lost vacation, lost their holiday pay so we could manage to stay afloat," he explained. " So the thing that I wanted to address here is there’s no EP standards for coal boilers out there,” said Vincent.

Fairbanks resident Ron Yarnell supported the ordinance, saying it would benefit the community int he future.  "We need to start considering people’s health, not just the fact that its’ expensive to heat our homes. It’s true, I understand that," he said. "If we want to keep attracting families to live here, and the military and have businesses, we need to clean up our air problem. We need to do it ourselves we can’t pass it on to somebody else."

But realtor Aaron Lojewski, who currently sits on the Interior Gas Utility Board, expressed concern about the ordinance’s potential impact on the area housing market. “So to paraphrase, if you have a dirty stove, you can’t sell your house if it’s even on the premise," he said. "So you couldn’t have it locked up in a shed in the back or anything and if you do, you could be fined $1000. So I think the housing market already has enough trouble and there’s no reason for you to come into my life and tell me or my clients what I can and can’t sell.”

The new air quality regulation ordinance will advance to a pollution control work session as well as a finance committee work session next week. It will be up for public hearing and debate among assembly members in two weeks.