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Students push for Fairbanks clean air rules

Student: 'Just as much as we have a right to warm homes, we have a right to clean air'

Posted: January 23, 2014 - 1:09am

FAIRBANKS — The Department of Environmental Conservation concluded public hearings on proposed Fairbanks wood stove regulations Tuesday and heard pleas from high school students for clean, breathable air.

Tristan Glowa, a senior at West Valley High School, urged the DEC to adopt regulations that allow people to heat homes without harming youth, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

“Just as much as we have a right to warm homes, we have a right to clean air,” Glowa said. “We need to find a balance between these rights, but, out of concern for our health and the health of youth in this town as a whole, we believe that our right to a healthy environment takes precedence over other people’s right to engage in activities that pollute our air.”

Proposed regulations would limit fine particulate emitted by wood stoves, pellet stoves and outdoor hydronic heaters that are used as alternatives to burning expensive fuel oil. Use of some heaters would be banned when airborne particulate matter passed a certain concentration.

Fairbanks and North Pole have struggled to meet federal standards for fine particulate. Breathing the tiny particles measuring 2.5 micrometers or less is a health threat to the young, the elderly and the weakened. Fine particulate has been linked to heart attacks, decreased lung function and premature death in people with heart or lung disease.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has threatened sanctions and a federal attainment plan if state and municipal officials do not come up with an acceptable local attainment plan. However, a citizen initiative sponsored by state Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, and approved by voters in 2012, banned the regulation of home heating devices by the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

Glowa was one of three West Valley students from the school’s environmental club who testified in favor of the regulations.

“We are missing school right now to be here because we believe that it is crucial for us to be heard on this issue,” Glowa said. “The science shows that youth are disproportionally affected by PM 2.5 pollution.”

Student Kengo Nagaoka urged the DEC to adopt a strict trigger point for turning off wood stoves when emissions exceed standards.

Others said a solution to the air quality problem should be a decision made by local voters. Borough Assemblyman Lance Roberts said the DEC regulations were not the best way to fix air quality and individual interventions on a “one-by-one basis” would be the best solution.

DEC will accept written comments on the proposed regulations through Thursday.

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