Local Officials to Meet, Confer Over New Set of Measures Intended to Reduce Air Pollution

Apr 3, 2018

Local, state and military officials will meet jointly tonight to talk about a new series of federally mandated air-pollution control measures that will be established in the near future around the Fairbanks area.

The measures are part of a so-called State Implementation Plan that the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation is developing in an effort to reduce fine-particulate pollution in Fairbanks and North Pole.

Ice fog that sets in during inversions on cold winter days in the Fairbanks area typically accumulate high levels of fine-particulate matter generated by wood-burning heating systems and other sources. The area's levels of PM2.5 sometimes are the highest in the nation.
Credit KUAC file photo

The area’s PM2.5 levels are at times the highest in the nation. They present a threat to human health and violate the federal Clean Air Act. Because of that, and because the area’s previous efforts to attain federal clean-air standards have failed, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has designated it a serious non-attainment area, says state Air Quality Division Director Denise Koch.

“EPA reclassified the Fairbanks North Star Borough PM2.5 nonattainment area from a moderate area to a serious area, and that happened effective June 9, 2017,” she said.

Koch says that redesignation triggered a process that requires study of a series of measures that could be implemented locally to help the area attain Clean Air Act standards. Those measures, which would be included in the state plan, include requiring local powerplants to install additional air-pollution control technology.

Another proposal would require use of ultralow-sulfur heating oil in the nonattainment area.

“It triggers a requirement for DEC to start working on a new plan to move the area toward attainment and to reduce PM2.5, or fine-particulate matter, air pollution,” she said.

Borough Air Quality Program Manager Nick Czarnecki, left, and state DEC Air Quality Division Director Denise Koch, at a Feb. 28 meeting in Fairbanks.
Credit Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Borough Air Quality Division Manager Nick Czarnecki says Fairbanks and North Pole mayors and City Council members have been invited to tonight’s special Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly meeting, along with representatives of local military bases.

Czarnecki says the public also is invited to the meeting, which begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Assembly’s chambers.

“It’ll be a really good information meeting where there’ll be a lot of information that’ll be distilled down so that folks don’t have to wade through 600 pages of technical documents to pull out the details that they want,” he said.

Czarnecki says there won’t be an opportunity for public comments at this meeting. But he says the borough will schedule more meetings on the issue in the coming weeks.

DEC has invited public review and feedback on the proposed PM2.5-control measures, which can be found on the agency’s home page. The agency says comments must be submitted to the agency by May 23.