Update to this post: DEC went on to issue over a dozen Air Quality Advisories in 2011 into March.
Submitted as testimony to Air Pollution Control Commission by firstname.lastname@example.org 12/8/2010.
To meet attainment, PM 2.5 levels need to be reduced by 20% from 2009 levels. If PM 2.5 pollution isn’t reduced, residents will endure continued public health and economic consequences of elevated fine particulate pollution and face EPA’s sanctions. At best Borough efforts toward a comprehensive PM 2.5 ordinance will take months and safeguards, if approved, are unlikely to effectively improve air quality this winter.
Ask Alaska DEC to trigger and enforce woodsmoke opacity standards now to provide an essential end-of-the-smokestack standard that targets the worst pollution emitters.
Controlling smoke opacity does not harm responsible wood burners. Even the Interior Wood Burners Association has stated, “(D)eal with the handful of nuisance outdoor boilers, we don’t need a blanket ordinance that punishes those who are being responsible.”
Letting the smoky emitters burn without limit puts neighborhoods at the whim of smoky wood and coal emitters and builds regulatory pressure against all wood burners. Many, many people believe exceeding 50% opacity is already prohibited by the State.
Ordinarily it isn’t. Yet December’s elevated PM 2.5 pollution levels prompted DEC to declare Air Quality Advisories for the Fairbanks and North Pole area for 7 days. An Air Quality Advisory triggers only one restriction: the 50% opacity safeguard for woodsmoke. Without an Air Quality Advisory, operators of wood-fired heating devices are merely prohibited from causing “black smoke.” [18 AAC 50.075(a)]
DEC does not need to wait until local air quality violates the state’s 24-hour average standard of 35 micrograms/cubic meter to declare and Air Quality Advisory and enforce the 50% opacity rule: “A person may not operate a wood-fired heating device in a manner that causes visible emissions that exceed 50% 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.” [See 18 AAC 50.075(a)(2) and 18 AAC 50.245(b).]
The Air Pollution Control Commission should join Clean Air Fairbanks in requesting DEC declare an Air Quality Advisory so that the 50% opacity safeguard for woodsmoke can be put to work to protect public health and property values and help our community meet attainment for PM 2.5.
Contact: Governor Sean Parnell <email@example.com>
PO Box 110001, Juneau, AK 99811-0001
Phone: (907)465-3500, Fax: (907)465-3532
Clean Air Fairbanks Woodsmoke Opacity Safeguard Factsheet, 11/22/2010
Here are three reasons you should join Clean Air Fairbanks in calling on the State to declare an Air Quality Advisory for our community, triggering the enforceable 50% opacity safeguard for woodsmoke:
- We must safeguard neighborhoods and schools that are enduring acute smoke problems; these can occur any time of year, not just during air inversions.
- Controlling woodsmoke opacity has broad support as it controls the most extreme woodsmoke producers, but not responsible wood burners.
- If the State’s woodsmoke opacity rule is enough to bring the Borough into attainment for PM 2.5 pollution–or at least slow its current rate of increase–we’ll never know unless the rule is put into effect and enforced. DEC has the ability to trigger the woodsmoke opacity rule that will help our community avoid EPA sanctions from PM 2.5 nonattainment and other economic impacts, and most important of all, protect the health of our children.
The State will listen to the borough in determining the need for an AQ Advisory
Alaska DEC-FNSB MOU for air pollution control, Jan. 2010.
The flow chart identifies “appropriate enforcement action” by either the Borough or ADEC (page 4). “Close communication and cooperation is necessary… to determine the need for issuing an air quality advisory….” (page 5).
Alaska DEC has the authority to regulate woodsmoke opacity (in bold)
18 AAC 50.075. Wood-fired heating device visible emission standards
(a) A person may not operate a wood-fired heating device in a manner that causes
(1) black smoke; or
(2) visible emissions that exceed 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.
DEC has the responsibility to declare Air Quality Advisories to protect public health (in bold)
18 AAC 50.245. Air episodes and advisories
(b) The department will declare an air quality advisory if, in its judgment, air quality or atmospheric dispersion conditions exist that might threaten public health.
(c) If the department declares an air quality advisory under (b) of this section, the department will
(1) request voluntary emission curtailments from any person issued a permit under this chapter whose stationary source’s emissions might impact the area subject to the advisory; and
(2) publicize actions to be taken to protect public health.
Without woodsmoke opacity safeguards at the Borough or State level in the Fairbanks nonattainment area, the only woodsmoke rule DEC can use in our community is the “black smoke” rule. [18 AAC 50.075(a)] Producing black smoke from a wood-fired heating device is unusual and thus has not been used to control woodsmoke emissions.
DEC declared Air Quality Advisories for 10 days in Dec. 2010 (at least)
“There is an Air Quality Advisory in effect for the Fairbanks and North Pole areas at this time.” Alaska DEC AQA 12/15/2010.
Coal Smoke Opacity Rule
Smoke from “an industrial process or fuel-burning equipment,” is prohibited from exceeding 20% opacity for more than 3 minutes of any one hour (possibly for 3 more minutes under a DEC air permit). This opacity rule is in effect statewide every day of the year. [18 AAC 50.055(a)(9)]
City and Borough of Juneau’s Opacity Rule
Juneau has a 50% opacity rule covering emissions from “solid fuel-fired heating devices” every day of the year. Although it is difficult to dry wood there, burning wet wood is not tolerated as an excuse for producing excessive smoke. Juneau has now come into attainment for PM 10 pollution. [36.40.080(b) & 03.30.055] For the Mendenhall Valley, the State incorporated Juneau’s code into its own regulations making opacity enforceable by both state and local governments. [18 AAC 50.075(c)]
Anchorage’s Opacity Rule
The Municipality of Anchorage has their own opacity rule for “wood-fired boilers”: 20% for 6 minutes in any hour except during the first 20 minutes after initial firing. Anchorage’s opacity rule is in effect every day of the year. Anchorage is recognized for its high dispersion due to wind, yet it protects adjacent property owners and schools from the detrimental impacts of acute concentrations of smoke. [15.35.50(A)(3)]
Matanuska-Susitna Borough’s Opacity Rule
While the Matanuska-Susitna Borough code does not have an opacity rule specific for woodsmoke, industrial processes or fuel-burning equipment [excludes indoor fireplaces but includes outdoor coal or wood boilers, 8.30.010(a)(9)] are prohibited from reducing opacity over 20% for more than 3 minutes in any hour every day of the year. [8.30.130 A] Mat-Su Borough code defines an “air contaminant” as “dust, fumes, mist, smoke, fly ash and other particulate matter, vapor, gas, odorous substances, or any combinations thereof.” [8.30.010 (a)(1)]
Wasilla’s Smoke Safeguard for Surrounding Properties
The City of Wasilla, while they have no opacity rule, requires a proposal to prove that a proposed use “shall not significantly impact surrounding properties with excessive … smoke….” [16.16.050(14)]
City and Borough of Sitka’s Smoke Safeguard for Adjacent Properties
Similarly, the City of Sitka while they have no opacity rule, their “general approval criteria” for conditional use permits places the burden of proof on the applicant and considers “smoke” that affects “adjacent uses and districts.” [22.30.160(c)(4)]
Fairbanks is unusual for a larger community in Alaska that has known woodsmoke problems but is afforded no year-around woodsmoke opacity safeguard. In early December local PM 2.5 pollution concentrations were the highest in the US. Healthy residents and the most sensitive among us, our children, pioneers, and health-compromised individuals are all at increased risk. DEC holds the capability to swiftly remedy this problem, by simply declaring an Air Quality Advisory which triggers one restriction–the 50% opacity rule for woodsmoke. Then DEC can zero-in on the worst woodsmoke emitters and significantly reduce harmful levels of woodsm