Fairbanks Fails EPA Deadline - State Plan Continues

May 20, 2020

The Environmental Protection Agency has taken federal Clean Air Act-mandated actions to reduce Fairbanks North Pole area wintertime fine particulate pollution. A fact sheet is attached below.


Bill Dunbar with EPA’s Seattle office says the agency has issued a determination that the community failed to meet a December 2019 air quality attainment deadline, and denied a request for a 5-year extension to do so. Dunbar describes both actions as procedural and expected.

"At the end of the day the news here is the State, EPA and the FNSBorough are working together on developing a plan that should, over the next several years, deliver even further benefits than we've seen over the last couple, three years.”

The next step is amending a State Implementation Plan to demonstrate how burn bans and other measures will reduce PM 2.5 levels by 5 percent a year until they meet federal standards. Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation air program manager Cindy Heil says the agency knew when it submitted the plan last year that the Fairbanks North Pole area would not meet the December 2019 deadline, and that the plan to get there would need more work. She says the plan ammedments, will show how mitigation measures will achieve the required 5% reduction in PM 2.5 emissions.

"For example, the woodstove change-out program. Every time we changeout an old stove and put a new stove in, we have to quantify all those change-outs, so every one of our measures going through that.”

Heil says the amended plan also has to include contingency measures in case the others fail to achieve the 5% reductions.

"We are trying hard not to put in any new control meaures, but one of the requirements is we have to look at every single measure that we have not put in, and re-evaluate them, and show that we don't need them or we can’t use them.”

Heil says that’s based on either their impracticability or prohibitive cost.  She says the amended plan is expected out for public comment this summer.

Below is the Fact Sheet released by the EPA:

Proposed Rule: Fairbanks, AK PM2.5 Nonattainment Area; Determination of Failure to Attain by the Serious area attainment date and denial of the attainment date extension request

FACT SHEET

ACTION

  • On [date], the EPA Region 10 Regional Administrator signed a notice proposing to determine that the Fairbanks nonattainment area failed to attain the 2006 24-Hour Fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5) National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) by the Serious area attainment date of December 31, 2019.
  • Once finalized, this action triggers the Clean Air Act requirement for the state to submit a revised attainment plan that, among other things, achieves a minimum of 5% annual emissions reductions of the emissions in the most recent inventory. This plan is due by December 31, 2020.
  • In this proposal, the EPA also explains its proposed denial of Alaska’s request for an extension of the “Serious” area attainment date. The State’s request does not meet all Clean Air Act criteria to qualify for such an extension.
  • The comment period for the proposal will be open for 30 days following its publication in the Federal Register.

BACKGROUND

  • On October 17, 2006, the EPA strengthened the 24-hour PM2.5 NAAQS to 35 micrograms per cubic meter. On November 13, 2009, the EPA designated a portion of the Fairbanks North Star Borough as nonattainment for the 2006 24-hour PM2.5 NAAQS, requiring Alaska to prepare and submit an attainment plan to meet the NAAQS.
  • On May 10, 2017, the EPA reclassified the Fairbanks nonattainment area from “Moderate” to “Serious,” requiring the State to submit a Serious area attainment plan.
  • Alaska submitted the Serious area attainment plan on December 13, 2019. On January 9, 2020, the EPA issued a Completeness Determination, a public notice stating that Alaska has submitted an administratively complete State Implementation Plan.
  • The Serious area attainment date was to be achieved as quickly as possible, but no later than December 31, 2019. The Clean Air Act directs that, within six months of the Serious area attainment date, the EPA must determine whether the area attained the standard by the attainment date.
  • The plan due on December 31, 2020, will need to meet additional planning requirements.

HOW TO COMMENT

  • EPA will accept comments on the proposed rule for 30 days following publication in the Federal Register
  • Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-R10-OAR-2019-0412, at https://www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions for submitting comments.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

  • To download the proposed rule from the EPA Region 10’s website, go to Fairbanks Air Quality Plan at https://www.epa.gov/ak/fairbanks-air-quality-plan.