Interior on Track for Cleaner Air

Sep 14, 2020

A temperature inversion keeps particulates in the air close to the ground where they affect human health in this 2018 photo of Fiarbanks.

State environmental regulators anticipate that Fairbanks North Pole area air quality will meet a federal fine particulate pollution standard sooner than previously expected.


Cindy Heil, a program manager with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation says modelling included in proposed amendments to a Serious State Implementation Plan, or SIP, use more recent air quality data.

"By monitoring the new modeling data, and the emissions inventories, all those control measures we put in place in the Serious SIP, we're projecting attainment by 2024.”

Heil says modelling with the most recent certified air quality data shows the area coming in at about 30 micrograms per cubic meter, below the federal standard of 35, in 2024. She says modelling with the previously available data calculated that wouldn’t happen until 2029.  Heil cautions that achieving attainment by 2024 hinges on adherence to all control measures in the Serious SIP.

"We have to fully implement the Serious SIP and cotinue to do the control measures that are coming up, because we took credit for those -- THAT's how we’re showing attainment.”

Heil says that includes a requirement that only dry cord wood can be sold in the area beginning next fall, and a switch the following year to cleaner burning number 1 heating oil. Among other proposed changes in the amended serious SIP is elimination of stack mounted electrostatic precipitator or ESP emissions control devices, as means to getting a waiver during burn bans.

"We don't feel that ESP should be incentivised at this point, because of creosote buildup, extreme creosote buildup concerns.”

Heil says it is unclear why ESPs, which are highly effective in some other locations, were found to accumulate creosote in local area testing.  The amendments to the SIP are out for comment through October 29th, and an online public meeting is scheduled for October 15th. The amended plan is due for submission to the federal Environmental Protection Agency by year’s end.