Alaska considering action on Fairbanks air pollution

Posted: Sunday, August 09, 2009

FAIRBANKS - The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation said it will take action to reduce air pollution in Fairbanks if local officials don't.

Alice Edwards, the state's air-quality director, said pollution-prevention measures will come from one government or the other.

"I want to make it clear the failure to address the (pollution) problem and associated Clean Air Act requirements is not an option for DEC," Edwards wrote in a letter to borough Mayor Jim Whitaker.

She added that environmental regulators are "required to step in if the local government fails to meet its obligations."

The state and the Fairbanks North Star Borough have a plan for the borough to be in a lead role to cut pollution, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

But that agreement stalled in the Borough Assembly, and public officials are considering asking voters this fall whether the local government or state should run an air quality program.

The borough has tentative plans to fight pollution with tax breaks, a registration process and replacing older or inefficient wood- and coal-fed heating systems.

Edwards said her agency hasn't developed specific options to lead a program in Fairbanks. But it would work to make sure "a federally approvable plan is developed and implemented, both to protect public health and so neither highway funds nor industrial development is put at risk."

Last month, residents at an assembly meeting pushed local leaders to resist mandates from environmental regulators.

Particulate pollution consists of airborne particles such as dust and soot. The pollution is generated by inefficient combustion. The pollution peaks during cold winter days in Fairbanks.



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