By Clean Air Fairbanks, comments in italics. Corrections and new information will be incorporated as available.
Download: Briefing for Interior Delegation 2010-11-9 [175KB]
Executive Summary by Clean Air Fairbanks
On November 9, 2010, representatives from EPA, Alaska DEC, and the FNSB provided a detailed and compelling assessment of the local problem of PM 2.5 air pollution problem and offered insight on how to resolve it.
Krishna Viswanathan from EPA described fine particle pollution, called PM 2.5. This pollution consists of particles and liquid droplets that are 2.5 micrometers and smaller, small enough that they may be entrapped in the deepest recesses of our lungs and travel though out our bloodstream. Mr. Viswanathan described its various potential sources and public health dangers to sensitive as well as healthy individuals. The EPA representative also highlighted the increasing reductions in local PM 2.5 needed to attain the state and federal 24-hour 35 microgram/cubic meter standard: 10% in 2007, 15% in 2008, and 20% in 2009. EPA is considering lowering the current health-based standards for PM 2.5 by July 2011. Mr. Viswanathan described the Clean Air Act’s State Implementation Plan (SIP) timeline. Federal law requires that because we are in nonattainment, the State must develop an implementation plan to submit to EPA by Dec. 2012. Under EPA regulations, attainment of the standards must be met by Dec. 2014. If they are not met, EPA will develop its own plan and economic sanctions will be put in place. EPA’s goal is to “address public health as quickly as possible.”
Alice Edwards, Director of DEC’s Division of Air Quality showed a map of the most populated part of the borough which was designated by EPA Dec. 2009 as a PM 2.5 “nonattainment area.” Ms. Edwards described the “challenges” to meeting EPA’s timeline and avoiding the economic sanctions outlined earlier. While 2½ years are remaining to complete the SIP, a “full year of that time” will be taken up with Borough and State public process requirements. Ms. Edwards described the state’s efforts to reduce PM 2.5 including “respond to smoke complaints and follow up with actions to mitigate impacts.” [Clean Air Fairbanks intends to confirm that this means enforce state regulations.]
Jim Conner, PhD, representing the Borough, presented source contribution analysis which attributes more than 50% of local PM 2.5 measured to woodsmoke. Dr. Conner described local efforts including the monitoring program, technical studies to identify source contributions, adoption of the Air Quality Ordinance, public education, and the woodstove change-out program. The presenters responded to several questions raised by attendees.
There were several questions and comments from Interior Legislative delegates. A common theme was that there is a need for more science before a plan is developed. The response was that current science tells us woodsmoke is responsible for greater than 50% of our PM 2.5. Additional study could tell us if that number is 53% or 58%, but reductions in woodsmoke will still need to be part of any attainment plan.
Recommendations from Clean Air Fairbanks
Because EPA uses a three year PM 2.5 average to determine attainment, PM 2.5 concentrations must be reduced with all reasonable haste to meet attainment deadlines in time. We must act today to avoid economic sanctions and to fulfill government’s responsibility to protect public health. The short amount of time we have to deal with this problem indicates that action is required as soon as possible based on the current level of knowledge, while concurrently preparing the State Implementation Plan (SIP) and continuing development of further analysis and data collection. Action should take the form of voluntary and mandatory enforcement measures, a combination that successfully reduced carbon monoxide levels with the borough/state I/M program (1991-2010).
The PM 2.5 SIP measures should include the popular stove change-out program and State enforcement of existing regulations regarding smoke emissions that interfere with attainment of air quality standards and exceed state standards and levels known to harm public health. The Borough Assembly voted unanimously on Nov. 9, 2010 to add as a legislative priority $5 million from the State in additional funds for the woodstove change-out program. Dr. Conner with the Borough Air Quality Program estimated that this amount would change-out all non-EPA certified units for EPA-certified units. [Include link to Assembly minutes when available.]
To maximize effectiveness of the change-out program, greater incentives should be given to encourage changing into a certified pellet stove as the fuel source is always dry not wet and the thermostat regulates through fuel delivery rather than by damping, which prevents smoldering and unnecessary PM 2.5 pollution. Also, as some public complaint-generating solid fuel-burning devices are owned by businesses or by individuals where the property is not their primary residence, the program’s success could be improved by opening it up to serve more than just private residences of individuals.
Voluntary measures receive only 6% credit from EPA in the SIP formula. Therefore, to meet the federal SIP timeline and avoid initiating the “sanction clock,” mandatory measures which are fully credited must be used, as was the formula for success with the I/M program. Additional consideration should be given to mandatory removal of outdoor wood and coal boilers as their PM 2.5 contribution has been recognized as substantial. [For example, the CCHRC conducted a study in 2008 of the various PM 2.5 emission sources in Fairbanks and how to achieve the greatest reductions. This study pinpointed that the greatest PM 2.5 reductions could be achieved through measures to reduce emissions from wood-fired hydronic heaters.] Consideration also should be given to restricting the burning of wood that has moisture content greater than 20%. Even EPA-certified devices or “qualified Phase II” boilers cannot be relied upon to burn cleanly if fed wet wood. Any mandatory control measure conducted by the Borough must be incorporated into state regulation in order to receive 100% credit from EPA.
All efforts must be taken immediately at every level to protect public health and avoid economic sanctions and other economic impacts that befall an area of nonattainment and its state. By focusing efforts on egregious contributors of PM 2.5 smoke, it may be possible to avoid onerous but necessary control measures.
An example of effective, yet onerous control measures that could be included in the FNSB SIP contingency plan for PM 2.5 attainment are included in the SIP for the City/Borough of Juneau for PM 10, incorporated in state regulation. These measures worked for Juneau as that area has now achieved “attainment” status. The Juneau model includes enforced burn bans during “air pollution emergencies” for solid fuel-fired heating devices (exempting masonry and pellet stoves) with limited exceptions [36.40.030 and 36.40.040]. This model also prohibits fuels other than “paper, cardboard or untreated wood” in these devices, apparently prohibiting coal, and prohibits smoke from these devices that exceeds 50% opacity for more than 15 minutes of any one hour at any time [36.40.080]. [See: Juneau code for solid fuel-burning devices.] [Also see: Juneau’s fine schedule for woodsmoke control.]
Those who wish to avoid having to implement a Juneau model solution must press for all efforts to be taken now, especially full enforcement of existing state regulations and support of the borough’s stove change-out program. Fairbanks’ deep cold and inversions that can last for weeks make burn bans particularly onerous. Yet, when facing the harm of high PM 2.5 concentrations to public health along with EPA’s sanction clock and other economic impacts, burn bans may become inevitable. Timely efforts may forestall state pressure to implement and enforce burn bans in the FNSB nonattainment area. Only timely efforts to reduce woodsmoke pollution now have any chance of avoiding EPA’s sanction clock and other economic impacts and, most importantly, protecting the health of all our residents.
Nov. 9, 2010 Briefing Presenters
Krishna Viswanathan, Environmental Scientist State Implementation Plans, US Environmental Protection Agency, Region 10, State & Tribal Air Programs Unit (AWT-107); Viswanathan.Krishna@epa.gov, (206)553-2684, fax (206)553-0110, EPA Region 10 (206)553-1200 or 1-800-424-4372; 1200 6th Ave, Suite 900, Seattle, WA 98101-3140
Alice Edwards, Division of Air Quality Director, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation; firstname.lastname@example.org, (907)465-5105 or toll free 1-866-241-2805, fax (907)465-5129; PO Box 111800, Juneau, AK 99801-1800
Jim Conner, PhD, Air Quality Specialist, FNSB Transportation Department, Air Quality Program; email@example.com, 459-1325, fax 459-1006; 3175 Peger Rd, Fairbanks, AK 99709-5499
Senators: Joe Paskvan – District E, John Coghill – District F
Representatives: Bob Miller – District 7, Scott Kawasaki – District 9, Steve Thompson – District 10, Tammie Wilson – District 11 [David Guttenberg – District 8 attended a similar briefing that morning.]
Assembly Members: Mike Musick, Karl Kassel
FNS Borough: Mayor Luke Hopkins, Transportation Director Glenn Miller
Some individuals were on teleconference, including Assembly member Diane Hutchison
Members of the public
Announcement by Mayor Luke Hopkins: On Nov. 22 the Air Pollution Control Commission will take public comment on a new proposed version of the Air Quality Ordinance (incorporating Prop A); the new draft version will be available when the APCC meeting public notice is published. [Add link as available.] Then the Assembly may have two work sessions, followed by a vote. Noted Woodriver Elementary School smoke concerns.
PowerPoint Presentation, print copy distributed to attendees [electronic link requested]
Krishna Viswanathan discussed the background of what PM 2.5 is and where it comes from: wood-burning stoves, power plants, diesel engines, natural sources, cars & trucks, non-road vehicles, forest fires, and industrial sources. He summarized the “significant” public health risks to sensitive individuals as well as healthy individuals from long-term exposure and short-term exposure. He stated that the lungs of children are “not fully developed until 7 or 8-years-old.” Referred to a study of children with asthma in Mexico City and pledged to include those slides in the final presentation when it is made available. [Request citation.]
The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for six criteria pollutants: ozone, particulate matter (PM 10) and fine particulate matter (PM 2.5), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOX), lead, and carbon monoxide (CO). Mr. Viswanathan stated that the Clean Air Act also requires EPA’s Science Advisory Committee to review these standards every 5 years. EPA is currently evaluating the committee’s recommendations for PM 2.5 and is expected to decide if more stringent standards are needed by July 2011. The current standards set in 2006 are an annual average of 15 micrograms/cubic meter of air and a 24-hour average of 35 micrograms. Attainment is calculated using three-year averages. The new standards under consideration are 11-13 micrograms for the annual standard and 30 to 35 micrograms for the 24-hr average. EPA’s Science Advisory Committee is directed to establish these standards to protect public health; they are “not allowed to consider financial means or technological capabilities.”
According to Mr. Viswanathan’s chart on “Trend in Fairbanks PM 2.5 Design Values” there was a dip in 2007 but 2008 24-hr values exceed the three previous years, with 2009 being the highest (51 micrograms). The reduction needed to attain the 35 microgram standard was 10% in 2007, 15% in 2008, and 20% in 2009, displaying a worsening trend. For the annual standard the FNSB was in attainment in 2009 with 11.5 micrograms, which may exceed the new standard under consideration. Mr. Viswanathan stated, EPA’s goal is to “address public health status as quickly as possible. If communities can attain standards sooner, it is better for public health.”
Mr. Viswanathan proposed that solutions in the FNSB nonattainment area will require understanding the extent & nature of the problem (with ongoing monitoring by FNSB) and source contribution (emission estimation, new meteorological & chemical models being developed). Control options will be derived from data and source contribution analysis, multiple sources/multiple strategies, and require combination of mandatory and voluntary measures, as was successful in controlling CO emissions. [Background on Fairbanks’ attainment plan for I/M that implemented contingency measures “early.”]
EPA’s required State Implementation Plan (SIP) submittal deadline is Dec. 2012; then attainment is required no later than Dec. 2014. Areas are evaluated on the most recent 3 years of monitoring data (2011-2013 for Dec. 2014 attainment date). Mr. Viswanathan described the “sanction clock:” if the SIP deadline is missed by 18-months, 2 to 1 offsets are imposed on new or modified point sources; after 24-months, federal highway sanctions are imposed, halting Title 23-funded projects. After 2-years, EPA is required to implement its own Federal Implementation Plan (FIP). He provided a chart showing 4 communities which did not submit SIPs or the plan was disapproved by EPA. In all 4 cases, federal highway funds were diverted from the nonattainment area. To pay for the FIP, EPA would take highway and other federal funds from other areas of the noncompliant state, including 105 program air quality grants. Mr. Viswanathan stated that EPA much prefers to have states prepare their SIPs, yet EPA has redirected states’ federal allocations as necessary to pay for the preparation of a FIP. A group called the Clean Air Force successfully sued EPA to require the collection of these funds from noncompliant areas and their states if necessary. [Request reference.]
Alice Edwards, Director of DEC’s Division of Air Quality, described the key dates in the PM 2.5 planning schedule. Dec. 2009 was the date of initial designation, which is the same date Fairbanks’ I/M program was terminated. As stated earlier, the SIP is due Dec. 2012 and final attainment is Dec. 2014, no later than 5 years after the initial designation. DEC and FNSB are the designated lead agencies for the SIP and attainment. [However, as Prop A was approved, the Borough will offer proposed code amendments at the Nov. 22 APCC meeting. Review the MOU between DEC and FNSB.]
Ms. Edwards posted the map of the nonattainment area. [link to nonattainment area map] The nonattainment area “captures most of the FNSB’s population.” The question was asked why Fort Wainwright was included but not Eielson, and her response was because “there was no data to exclude Fort Wainwright.”
Another question was asked, if the trend were going the right way (improving), “can an extension be requested from EPA?” The answer given was yes, but “The extent of credit (from EPA) for voluntary measures is only 6%.” Mandatory controls receive 100% credit in the SIP formula. [Confirm with EPA.] “Mandatory measures are those which “can be enforced at the state and federal level.” Voluntary measures are “incentives and education.” [As I recall, this question was answered by Mr. Viswanathan.]
Ms. Edwards continued to describe the schedule and challenges for meeting the regulatory deadlines and avoiding the economic sanctions outlined earlier. While 2½ years are remaining to complete the SIP, a “full year of that time” will be taken up with Borough and State public process requirements. She identified remaining challenges including: assessing point source contributions, modifying EPA estimates of vehicle emissions in Fairbanks during winter conditions, and representing complex atmospheric sulfur chemistry. The last of these is complex because the Interior’s low levels of sunlight during winter months would be expected to result in a lower rate of SO2 conversion into (secondary-generated) PM 2.5. [If I’m understanding and representing this complex science properly.]
Ms. Edwards mentioned that the State and City (and Borough) of Juneau have the authority to regulate woodsmoke in Juneau, and adjustments in regulation are needed to “make it work” for Fairbanks. [18 AAC 50.075(c) stipulates that “a person may not violate or cause a violation of a provision of the Code of the City and Borough of Juneau, Alaska” thus incorporating local code into state regulation. Currently DEC has authority to regulate woodsmoke from wood-fired heating devices in Fairbanks or elsewhere in the state, under state regulations for Air Quality Control 18 AAC 50. However, the State cannot currently enforce FNSB ordinance as in Juneau because local air quality ordinance has not yet been incorporated into state regulation.] Ms. Edwards summarized State efforts to reduce PM 2.5. Those efforts are: coordinate planning between Borough, DEC, EPA; respond to smoke complaints and follow-up to mitigate impacts [Confirm this means “enforcement.”]; conduct public outreach and education in conjunction with Borough efforts; assist Borough on projects to characterize PM 2.5; assist with technical work for the plan including the inventory of sources; analyze emissions, impacts, and controls for permitted sources (e.g. power plants); and conduct studies to characterize motor vehicle emissions at cold temperatures.
Ms. Edwards and Jim Conner, PhD described the analysis of the filter paper retrieved from the borough’s sampling devices. By the chemical mass balance method, 60 to 80% of the PM 2.5 was generated by wood burning.
Dr. Conner offered additional contributions to the presentation, including Borough efforts to reduce PM 2.5 which includes their monitoring program; technical studies to identify source contributions; adoption of wood burning ordinance [June 2010 but then Prop A was approved Oct. 2010]; operation of wood stove change-out program; and public education.
Dr. Conner summarized an area of question remaining about sulfite contribution to PM 2.5. Speciation data show sulfate accounts for about 30% on violation days [24-hr average exceeding 35 micrograms/cubic meter]. Key sources of sulfate are space heating (fuel oil) and power plants (coal and distillate fuel). It is unclear how much power plants contribute to sulfate formation. Modeling is needed to assess sulfate source contributions.
For the woodstove change-out program, applications are scored to establish priority. Key criteria include: homes in priority areas [higher PM 2.5 concentrations] and “action required.” [Ask what “action required” means.] Applications are ranked on scores and highest scores are attended first. They are currently able to process 10 applications to completion in a week. Approximately 50% of the available funds [$1 million derived from a federal grant] have been obligated or spent since the program began [in June 2010]. Currently, 141 applications are in the “accepted” stage and 70 are “closed” [completed]. The impact of the Oct 5 Proposition A ballot initiative is “still being assessed.” [New draft air quality ordinance proposal to be given at Nov. 22 APCC meeting.]
According to Dr. Conner regarding the continuation of the wood stove change-out program, Fairbanks area needs at least 7 micrograms/cubic meter reduction to bring the design value down to the 24-hr standard (from 42 micrograms/cubic meter to 35). A mid-range estimate of air quality benefits of the change-out program is that $1 million will change out 400 stoves and produce a reduction in 1.2 micrograms/cubic meter. Assuming the current change-out program changes out 400 stoves, an additional 1,900 stoves ($4.75 million) would be needed to approach the 35 microgram/cubic meter standard.
[This concluded the PowerPoint presentation. Questions and further discussion followed.]
Representative Wilson stated that “state law prohibits the burning of tires, etc” and limits smoke to “50% opacity.” [Not exactly. 18 AAC 50.075(1) prohibits black smoke from wood-fired heating devices but not the burning of tires. 18 AAC 50.065(d) which only applies to open burning prohibits “adverse effects” from burning “putrescible garbage, animal carcasses, or petroleum-based materials, including materials contaminated with petroleum or petroleum derivatives.” Regarding opacity from wood-fired heating devices, 18 AAC 50.075(2) prohibits emissions from exceeding “50 percent opacity for more than 15 minutes in any one hour in an area for which an air quality advisory is in effect under 18 AAC 50.245.” While DEC has full discretion to do so, DEC has not yet designated an “air quality advisory” for the nonattainment area (or any smaller areas within the nonattainment area); thus, the 50% opacity rule is not in effect or enforceable at this time. See the State Air Quality Control regulations, 18 AAC 50.]
Senator Coghill asked, “We don’t even know our source science. How do we use science for our controls” such as the SIP? The federal, state, and borough presenters went back over the science which has been collected by the borough and analyzed by EPA and identified that a known significant source of the PM 2.5 pollution is due to woodsmoke released at low altitude and thus in residents’ breathing zones where it would have maximum adverse health impact. Mr. Viswanathan responded, “Woodstoves are going to need to be part of any solution to the problem.” Current analysis shows greater than 50% of the PM 2.5 is from wood burning. The actual number may be 53% or 58% but regardless, it is over half. “[You] need to address it [PM 2.5 from wood-fired heating devices]. If you wait, it only pushes the area into nonattainment designation.”
Representative Wilson stated, “Seems like science should direct action rather than timelines.”
Mayor Hopkins responded, “We know that woodsmoke is the largest single contributor [to PM 2.5 pollution]. Don’t want it to continue to climb. It is possible that retrofit technology will be available.”
Mr. Viswanathan also responded, “The goal is restoring public health as soon as possible. We can’t afford the luxury of waiting for perfect science. Public health is being jeopardized. School kids are being affected.”
Senator Paskvan raised an open question to attendees, “What are the private causes of action? The school district could, say, have a private cause of action for contamination of air space.”
Mr. Viswanathan replied that within the federal Clean Air Act there are provisions in this regard. ‘I will check citizen’s ability to “arrest.” [Curtail pollution? Check intent.] Don’t know if they can. A person can sue the federal government.’
Dr. Conner went back to a borough photo used in the presentation showing several point sources [a power plant and possibly the hospital] and what they call “area sources” which are the numerous small plumes visible in the photo. He asked attendees at the briefing to consider their own observations of the layer of smoke visible when dropping into the Fairbanks bowl and the many small contributing plumes.
Dr. Conner described the 30 different fixed sites and a mobile vehicle used to sample air quality. He stated that the borough has submitted an RFP to get analysis of the exact fuel types used in the Fairbanks area and their “emission factors” so they can more exactly attribute the causes of our PM 2.5 pollution. He described a “Rectangle of Death” in suburban North Pole. [Request road boundaries.] He also identified another area of PM 2.5 concentration on the nonattainment map at Nordale Elementary School [Hamilton Acres neighborhood].
Representative Miller asked whether the monitoring was indoor or outdoor. Dr. Conner responded that it was almost exclusively outdoor, with “a little indoor monitoring.” Mayor Hopkins asked if there were federal or state indoor air quality standards for PM 2.5. Mr. Viswanathan responded, “Not that I’m aware of.” [This is correct, but per AS 18.60.030(6), the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development shall “establish and enforce occupational safety and health standards that prescribe requirements for safe and healthful working conditions for all employment, including state and local government employment, and the requirements are to be at least as effective as those requirements adopted by…29 U.S.C. 655 (Sec. 6 of P.L. 91-596).”]
Representative Wilson asked if we spend $5 million and trade out stoves—“permanent and enforceable, not going back”–would we be able to use the EPA’s Clean Data Policy? [Many present, including Rep. Wilson, had attended the AM briefing. During that earlier briefing, Mr. Viswanathan described the Clean Data Policy EPA used to work with 14 communities that wanted to meet attainment by the date of the SIP. 13 communities succeeded and reached attainment early. Unfortunately one community, Denver, did not and sued EPA, so EPA had its “toes bitten” and would not likely be able to use the Clean Data Policy.]
Mr. Viswanathan responded by referring to the previously shown design values chart. Fairbanks’ 24-hr PM 2.5 concentrations are showing a worsening trend since 2007. As of 2009, the last values given on the chart, a 20% reduction is needed to reach the 35 microgram/cubic meter 24-hr standard. As attainment is based on a three-year average, the worsening trend makes it nearly impossible to reach the standard just by meeting it in the last year. [The EPA representative was giving reasons why it is not realistic to anticipate attainment by the deadline for the SIP, Dec. 2012.]
Senator Paskvan again wondered whether there was a cause of action by citizens that could remedy this problem. Then, Senator Paskvan thanked the attendees and concluded the meeting.