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Key question still being overlooked:

Would an ordinance weaker than state regulations (including the final SIP) risk termination of the local control program and state funding per AS 46.14.400, AS 46.14.410, and 18 AAC 50.015?

Instead of addressing this question, coverage in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner is limited to reporting on opinions from three North Pole City Council members. North Pole leaders offer differing opinions on borough air quality plan 2/26/2015.

Link  to previous post: Assembly Proposal for Weak Controls Risks Termination of Local Control

During recent public hearings on development of a new air quality ordinance, 2015-01, there was no mention that the new ordinance needed to be at least as stringent as the new plan approved by the State or the Borough risks losing local control.

The Assembly went so far as to amend into the draft ordinance a control zone, in effect shrinking the boundaries of the designated PM2.5 nonattainment area by removing the northern third of the nonattainment area. The revised control zone excludes part or all of Chena Ridge, Sheep Creek, Goldstream, Fox, and Gilmore Dome neighborhoods, view proposed “Air Quality Control Zone” map. Not only is there no data to support shrinking the nonattainment area, to do so violates State and Federal law. The idea that air quality must be a compromise seems to have thrown the Assembly off track. Like it or not, long-delayed deadlines and controls take effect Feb. 28, 2015. Opportunities to develop a local plan were squandered years ago. The Assembly holds only these options: follow the State program, strengthen it, or get out of the way. Weakening controls established by the State risks termination of local control and funding granted to the Borough for the program.

Legal substantiation:

  1. The latest version of ordinance 2015-01 appears to include an error in the “whereas” statements. The last statement on page 2 refers to “draft regulations” issued by DEC that are “intended to be part of the State Implementation Plan as required by the EPA.” The regulations issued by DEC are no longer in “draft” form. They are FINAL regulations that have been fully adopted by DEC (and signed by the Lieutenant Governor) and they constitute state regulatory law beginning Feb. 28, 2015. DEC’s website makes plain that the regulations are final.
  2. The draft Borough ordinance also notes on page 2 that the Borough has been authorized by DEC to operate an air quality control program “in lieu of and consistent with the State’s air quality program.” This is accurate, although the key word is “CONSISTENT.” Any local air quality control program must operate in a manner that is “consistent” with DEC requirements. This is specified in the statutory provision that allows for the existence of the Borough’s local air quality control program. Per AS 46.14.400(a): “With the approval of the department, a municipality may establish and administer within its jurisdiction a local air quality control program that operates in lieu of and is consistent with all or part of the department’s air quality program as established under this chapter.” (emphasis added).
  3. By Alaska statute, to be “consistent,” the Borough’s local air quality control program MUST implement DEC regulations. This is specified in AS 46.14.400(f):  “A municipality or a local air quality district administering a program under this section shall administer its local air quality control program according to this chapter, regulations adopted under those sections, and its cooperative agreement under (d) of this section.” (emphasis added).
  4. The only exception to the statutory requirement that a local air quality control program administer state regulations is for “more stringent” local requirements, which may be adopted with DEC approval. See AS 46.14.400(f).
  5. A local air quality control program may only operate if approved by DEC. See AS 46.14.400(a). If a local air quality control program is NOT administered in a manner that is consistent with legal requirements, DEC can revoke approval and terminate the program. See AS 46.14.410.
  6. The boundaries of the nonattainment area are set by EPA, whose delineation constitutes federal regulatory law. The boundaries of the nonattainment area are further codified in DEC’s regulations, which incorporate by reference the delineation of the EPA administrator.  See 18 AAC 50.015.
  7. In light of the foregoing, it would be UNLAWFUL, DISRUPTIVE, and ultimately POINTLESS for the Borough to adopt less restrictive air quality regulations.

Additional points:

  • Because state law requirements govern no matter what the Borough decides, inconsistent local measures risk unnecessary confusion and the potential that residents might face enforcement consequences for violation of state regulations—which they must obey no matter what the Borough says. (NOTE: Page 4 of the DEC-Borough MOU specifies that a violation of a DEC regulation will be handled by DEC.) Adoption of inconsistent local regulations risks termination of the Borough’s local air quality control program by DEC and funding provided for this program by state and federal agencies.
  • The adoption of inconsistent regulations by the Borough—and the attendant confusion and uncertainty about the extent to which state regulations are in force—likely would undermine the chances that EPA will approve the SIP submitted by DEC in January. If DEC’s SIP submission is not approved by EPA, the clock will start running on potential sanctions for Fairbanks, including stricter permit requirements for new major source, the loss of highway funds, and imposition of restrictions by EPA.

Note on Data Gap: In 2008, Mayor Jim Whitaker requested a time extension on the nonattainment boundary decision, insisting it was not “to delay addressing the problem,” but to resolve the “significant gaps” in the data used to set the nonattainment boundary. Link to source. (Whitaker is now chief of staff for Governor Bill Walker.) CAF encourages readers who are data driven to review the data used in 2008 to successfully press EPA to shrink the size of the nonattainment area. Link to ADEC nonattainment documents.

Update: Success! A week after this post, the Borough fixed the Near-real Time site. No explanation why it took years. Thank you to all who pressed the Borough to correct this problem.

UNHEALTHY in Fairbanks and North Pole again today.

Fairbanks North Star Borough advises it is UNHEALTHY but has only voluntary recommendations.

EPA says local air pollution is highest in the nation today. 155 AQI converts to PM2.5 of 62.3 µg/m3. EPA AQI to Concentration Calculator.

Nation's Highest AQI 1/27/2015  http://www.airnow.gov

Nation’s Highest AQI 1/27/2015 http://www.airnow.gov

But, oops! The State forgot to issue an Air Quality Advisory until noon.

Eventually, an Air Quality Advisory was declared as UNHEALTHY for Fairbanks and North Pole AQA #2015-09. However, it failed to mention the State’s new opacity rule — at 24-hour concentrations over 30 µg/m3, State regulations prohibit smoke opacity greater than 20% for any wood heating appliance in the FNSB nonattainment area. Submitted to EPA: Final SIP, 12/24/2014, III.D.5.7-8, III.D.5.11-6. The State told EPA but why don’t they tell local burners about the new opacity rules?

2015-01-27 BAC Moderate 68

1/27/2015 at 1 pm BAC USG  http://co.fairbanks.ak.us/airquality/AQNearRealTime.aspx

Borough “Near-real Time” hourly warnings show yellow for MODERATE when hourly PM2.5 was 68.

Then, as current air conditions worsened, “Near-real Time” became orange for UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS when hourly PM2.5 was 83.

The “Near-real Time” site confuses the public by failing to provide current hourly PM2.5 information based on 24-hour exposure at that level. Table: EPA Air Quality Index for 24-hour PM2.5. The FNSB hourly site has underreported health danger since its inception.

When will FNSB listen to Dermot?

The borough reporting system does not follow the national pattern. But it should.

The borough includes this disclaimer, “When calculating Air Quality Index Level on Near-Real-Time Data, the average PM2.5 for a one hour time frame is used. Since the EPA doesn’t have index levels for the average one hour time frame, the levels indicated on this web page are calculated as if the one hour average PM2.5 were the peak value in an average 24 hour period with normally distributed emissions.”

The problem is that the hourly reports are not necessarily the daily peak levels.

While it is true that EPA does not have a one-hour standard, it is also true that cities across the country are reporting the one-hour figures and making a statement about air quality and health based on 24-hour exposure at that level.

I have asked borough officials and state officials to address this problem and adopt the reporting system that is in use in the rest of the nation.” Dermot Cole, FDNM 12/1/2012.

Report: Preventable Deaths from PM2.5 Air Pollution in Fairbanks, AK, 2014

According to a recent study, fine particulate matter (PM2.5) air pollution is associated with an 11.5 to 23.5 percent increased number of deaths in Fairbanks, Alaska. The higher end of the range applies to areas with higher PM2.5 concentrations, such as North Pole, Alaska. Each year, an estimated 50 to 101 deaths in the Fairbanks North Star Borough are associated with PM2.5 air pollution. Reducing ambient PM2.5 concentrations and ambient exposure would prevent these premature deaths.

This study is the first to associate PM2.5 with increased mortalities for the Fairbanks area.

North Pole’s extreme levels of air pollution will count, finally.

Beginning in 2015, data from this site (North Pole Fire) will be used for calculating the design value for the nonattainment area. While we will not have a precise design value until May 2015, the ADEC and the Borough will need to factor these data into their attainment planning efforts. EPA letter to CAF 11/19/2014

Beginning in 2015, FNSB PM2.5 nonattainment will be calculated from nearby North Pole, the area of expected maximum concentration, rather than downtown Fairbanks.

The 2011 to 2013 24-hour design value for Fairbanks was 45, fourth highest in the nation. Data source. 35 is the state and federal standard for PM2.5 24-hour average.

When finalized, the new 24-hour design value may be approximately three times higher than the old. The North Pole Fire monitoring station was established March 2012 (3288 Hurst Rd, 99705). The station’s 98th percentile for 2012 and 2013 was 158 and 122 µg/m3. For the first half of 2014, it was 156. Data source. North Pole may also exceed the annual PM2.5 standard of 12.

Source apportionment studies have identified over 80% of winter PM2.5 in North Pole is from wood smoke. 2012 study 81.2%, 2013 study 85.5%.

This change of the source of air monitoring data is essential for those who have to breathe the unhealthy air in North Pole and other neighborhoods with highly polluted air. Using the Fairbanks site to measure attainment, reaching attainment would be a relatively easy goal, and if this goal were reached, North Pole and other areas would still be highly polluted. By changing the measuring location to North Pole, attainment will not be reached until all Fairbanks and North Pole neighborhoods have cleaner air.

We look to local and state leaders to initiate emergency action to reduce PM2.5 emissions, accurately advise the public of current air conditions, and ensure public safety especially for sensitive populations including children and elders.

Prolonging air pollution is not a solution. Delay causes more medical harm including disability and premature death.

Design value is the three-year average of the 98th percentile value. An area is in violation of the NAAQS when the design value is greater than the 24-hour NAAQS for PM2.5, which is currently set at 35 µg/m3.

The annual standard for PM2.5, set by the NAAQS using a three-year average of annual concentrations, is currently 12 µg/m3.

98th Percentile is the daily value out of a year of PM2.5 monitoring data below which 98 percent of all daily values fall.

To protect health, Clean Air Act regulations require nonattainment to be calculated from “an area of expected maximum concentration.” 40 CFR §58 Appendix D 4.7.1(1).

Prop 2 Sample Ballot 2014, page 2

Prop 2 Sample Ballot 2014, page 2

Oct. 7, 2014 is the FNSB municipal election. Registered voters will decide on Proposition 2 that prohibits the Borough from any regulation of heating appliances or fuels. Please vote “NO” to allow local government to take action to improve your air and health.

Proposition 2 “prohibits the borough from regulating in any way heating appliances or combustible fuels.” Assembly Factual Resolution, approved 8/14/2014

2014 Sample Ballot. The image links to the sample ballot posted by the Borough.

Citizens for Clean Air – No on Prop 2 submitted the following position statement opposing Prop 2:

Vote “NO” on Proposition 2

Proposition 2 prevents local government from taking action on the most significant issue facing our health and economy: Fairbank’s air pollution.

Vote “NO” to allow local government to take action to stop reckless pollution.

Our opponents want you to vote “yes” to tie the hands of local government. They want officials to do nothing to stop those who have injured neighbors and schoolchildren. They want government to sit on its hands while a few continue to burn irresponsibly. Our opponents are fiddling while Fairbanks burns.

Vote “NO” to take back the Borough’s ability to stop air pollution. Local air pollution has sickened many, forced families to move, lowered property values, reduced business investment, and, in all likelihood, contributed to the death of someone you know. People need to be able to heat their homes responsibly; however, tools are needed to stop thoughtless polluters promptly. This can’t be done from Juneau, or DC.

Claim: “We’ve always had ice fog in Fairbanks a few days each winter, it’s no big deal.”
Fact: It’s a big deal. It’s as serious as a heart attack. Exposure to fine particle or PM2.5 air pollution (the kind we have in Fairbanks and North Pole) “over a few hours to weeks can trigger (both) cardiovascular disease–related mortality, and nonfatal events.” Longer-term exposure can “reduce (someone’s) life expectancy…by several months to a few years.” (American Heart Association)

Claim: “Even if there’s a problem, rules and regulations won’t help.”
Fact: Some people just don’t care. Look at drunk drivers. We need a way to protect our homes and families. James Connor, former Borough air quality manager, stated, “Trash. Tires…. Railroad ties. Feces. Animal carcasses. You would not believe what they burn.”

Claim: ”If regulations are allowed, “they” will come to take your stove away.”
Fact: Essential burners, families who have only wood or coal for heating, are protected by Federal and State statutes. There are about 2,000 essential burners in the borough, and 13,000 non-essential wood burners. When air quality gets bad, people with oil burners could be asked to switch back.

Claim: “There is a problem but natural gas is the only cure.”
Fact: For most, natural gas is years away and the cost to hook up could fatally hamper this solution.

Claim: “The State and Federal Government can deal with it.”
Fact: Yes, Juneau, Missoula and Salt Lake City were all forced by the EPA to clean up their dirty, dangerous air. We can do it better, and quicker, without the heavy hand of the law.

Both sides of this issue agree that rising fuel costs make wood heat attractive. However, our air pollution will max out if inefficient stoves remain, or if people burn green wood, garbage, or plastics.

It’s a disgrace that Fairbanks is one of the top 10 most polluted cities in the US (#7 for Short-Term Particle Pollution–American Lung Association). This community values our kids, our elders, and our future! Vote “no” on Prop 2.

– Jeffrey Merkel, Mary Nordale, and Patrice Lee of Citizens for Clean Air-No on Prop 2
Submitted to the Borough Clerk Aug. 22, 2014

Support Citizens for Clean Air-No on Prop 2 to allow local government to take action to improve your air and health.

Mail a check today:

CCA -No on Prop 2
607 Old Steese Hwy Ste B PMB 118
Fairbanks AK 99701-3163

Donate on PayPal:

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Donate to CCA-No on Prop 2

Please include your occupation and employer (APOC requirement).

APOC registered — Citizens for Clean Air-No on Prop 2 is registered with APOC.

On Facebook – Visit Citizens for Clean Air-No on Prop 2.

For more information, contact Patrice Lee <patricelee3294@gmail.com> (907)799-9580.

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