FAIRBANKS - A Republican state legislator from North Pole wants Alaska to spend almost $6 million on a program to help Fairbanks overcome its chronic air pollution.
State Rep. Tammie Wilson, a freshman representative, supports the program being discussed in Fairbanks North Star Borough that would seek to collect older wood-fed heating systems that contribute to the air pollution.
Smoke from the inefficient wood stoves is believed to be the leading contributor to a problem that has put Fairbanks on the Environmental Protection Agency's list of communities violating fine particle pollution standards. The state has less than three years to submit an implementation plan to the EPA or risk losing federal money.
Frequent winter temperature inversions in the Tanana Valley keep the pollution from scattering into the atmosphere. Air pollution specialists think reducing the use of older wood stoves could dramatically improve air quality.
Wilson estimated that $5.8 million in state aid would cover the program, including administrative costs. Tax breaks and reimbursements would be used to distribute cleaner models.
Wilson said the prospect of economic sanctions makes this a statewide issue.
"This summer is an ideal time for residents to exchange their wood burners," Wilson said. "Every summer missed is an entire year missed, while the (federal and state) deadline for attainment nears."
Rep. Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that he expects the Interior delegation to work with Wilson on her request, but would like to hear Wilson's suggestion about where to find the money.
Meantime, Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, said he plans to ask whether tweaks to a two-year-old, $360 million, state-led energy efficiency program could send more aid to Fairbanks for household construction that cuts energy use and smokestack emissions.
"For me, it should be one pitch we should make," Coghill said.
Information from: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com