Fairbanks borough to vote on wood stove rules

Posted: Monday, October 04, 2010

FAIRBANKS - Fairbanks North Star Borough voters will decide Tuesday whether to enact a law preventing the borough from banning certain wood stoves for heating homes.

The ballot measure would undo air quality regulations for wood and coal that were enacted in June by the borough assembly.

A "yes" vote would effectively turn over air quality regulation to the state.

The new rules govern the types of new stoves that can be installed, and ban burning that's a nuisance to a neighbor. Starting in September 2011, toxic emissions from some wood and coal stoves would be limited.

The North Star Landowners, a group chaired by state Rep. Tammie Wilson, backs the measure. Wilson, R-North Pole, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner the borough would be better off with the state taking the lead on air quality enforcement in Fairbanks.

"I don't know how the state would make it any worse than what the borough currently is doing," Wilson said.

The core issue, Wilson said, is the cost of energy. More people are burning wood because of high home heating oil costs

Burning wood emits particles known as PM 2.5. The federal government has put Fairbanks on notice to reduce levels of PM 2.5 by 2014.

Wilson said the state has the resources to find affordable energy solutions and to tell the EPA that air quality requirements will be met when residents get an affordable energy alternative.

"We should be doing things to find affordable energy versus restricting one of our only alternatives that is affordable now," she said.

Resident Duncan Marriott opposes the ballot measure. Advocates have misrepresented the measure by saying it will secure local control over air quality, he said.

"Prop A does not support local control," Marriott said. "It removes the borough's control," Marriott said.

Measure opponent David DeLong said Fairbanks should balance residents' right to home heating choice with health considerations and the right to breathe clean air.

"There's no private property like the inside of your lungs," DeLong said.

A program that provides tax breaks and payments to residents who relinquish or trade-in old, dirty wood stoves will remain in place if the ballot measure passes.

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