For years now local residents have pleaded for relief from harmful levels of air pollution. Now our economy is at risk from EPA sanctions. Still think there’s no problem? Look again.
This coal smoke event occurred on a January weekend. Santa came to Fairbanks to buy CO detectors at Home Depot. He found the detectors, but the coal stench reeked so much that it was all he could do to grab a few paint chips for the sleigh (reds) as Dasher and Blitzen pulled him right out the door and away. No lingering in the smoke loading zone, for goodness sake.
DEC wasn’t able to take Santa’s call with his complaint. How could they? They weren’t there. Even with our riches of oil, the State can’t afford overtime for the scant handful of qualified air quality inspectors or even let them use State vehicles so they can get out there and defend our neighborhoods and children.
Residents can see the smoke, smell the smoke, feel the smoke, even taste the smoke when they cough. Neighborhoods are the front lines of our battle against smoke. Yet, Santa tells us no one in DEC has found an air pollution violation in our borough. Ever. That gets under Santa’s rosy skin because he knows the pollution, year by year, is growing worse.
There is no record that Alaska DEC has ever levied a fine, ordered air pollution to stop, or even found an air quality violation from a woodstove, wood boiler, or coal boiler heating appliance in the borough. Santa is sure DEC sees the smoke too, but their reports all say, “No violation found.”
DEC could do a better job prohibiting smoke if they didn’t prohibit overtime for their inspectors. Operators time the smoke events for when no one will be around to respond to complaints. Two exceedance days a year–that’s one weekend–is all it takes to keep us in nonattainment status; currently, we exceed state and federal standards dozens of days each winter.
Does DEC sound like the state department you want to entrust with air quality control for our community? Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins has just forwarded a voluntary air program to the Assembly which, if approved, will tie the hands of borough government and trigger State control.
We’re not reassured. If the Borough washes its hands of the messy job of enforcement, then it falls to Governor Parnell’s department that disdains smoke regulation even more. DEC thinks smoke isn’t any different from the annoyance of a neighbor’s barking dog, and it’s best left to the locals. Reluctant enforcement is what has given us this smoke pollution free-for-all, worsening each year.
Tell the Borough not to hand over responsibility for protecting our air to DEC. Speak up Thursday, January 13, 2011, 6 pm.
The Agenda for 1/13/2011 meeting has a link to the draft ordinance 2011-03, the voluntary air quality ordinance, but the link doesn’t work. Here’s the current draft: 2011-03, draft version 1/13/2011 [517KB]. Review the current local Air Quality Ordinance 2010-28 (approved 6/10/2010) and Proposition A: the Home Heating Protection Act (approved by voters Oct. 5, 2010 and certified Oct. 12, 2010).