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Politics

Final Outcome on Air Quality Proposition Won't Come For Another Week

Fairbanks, AK - The “NO’s” have a slim lead in the vote on a controversial Fairbanks air quality initiative.  A final tally whether voters in the Fairbanks North Star Borough have decided to extend a four-year ban on local regulation of area clean air standards won’t come out until next Tuesday.  According to Borough Clerk, Nancy Ashford-Bingham, local election officials still have to count 1638 question and absentee ballots following Tuesday’s municipal election.

Currently, a ‘No’ vote is leading with 4990 votes. Voting ‘No’ would give the Assembly authority to regulate air quality.  4825 voters cast ‘YES’ ballots on the proposition. That’s a difference of 165 votes.
The local group Citizens for Clean Air campaigned heavily over the last few weeks to encourage ‘No’ votes.  Group co-sponsor and long-time air quality activist Patrice Lee wasn’t ready to declare victory last night, but she says the issue hasn’t changed.

“Well, if it goes yes, then we have a plan of action, just as if it goes no, we have a plan of action. Either way,t eh air has to be cleaned up and if we have local options, then it would always be our druthers to go with local options and work together as a community," Lee says.  "And if, in the end, we don't have local options, then we will use all the options that are available to us to clean up the air."

The proposition to keep the Borough from regulating home heating appliances, including wood stoves and boilers, is sponsored by North Pole Republican State Representative Tammie Wilson. Another supporter, Fairbanks North Star Borough Assemblyman Lance Roberts anticipates a fight in the Assembly.  
“Right now, the ‘No’s’ have a slight advantage and it's going to be pretty bad," he says. "It's scary to think what kind of ordinances they will have coming forward to try and regulate what they percieve to be a problem," says Roberts.

The proposition was first considered in 2010.  It failed and was again considered in 2012.  It failed that year as well. Assembly members can revive ballot propositions after two years. Its previous failure means the state currently has the authority to regulate air quality in and around problem areas including North Pole and downtown Fairbanks.

The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the state to put forth regulations on air quality that meets the agency’s standards of particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrograms, or PM 2-point-5. The state has put forward a proposal that includes a ban on wood burning when air quality is poor. But the state has not laid out a timeline for imposing the proposed regulations.  The borough faces costly penalties from the federal government if air quality isn’t brought into attainment.