During a public meeting of the Fairbanks North Star Assembly on Jan. 20, 2011, Borough attorney Rene Broker explained Prop A requires the nullification of certain sections of our current Air Quality Ordinance 2010-28 but not others. The gutted Air Quality Ordinance, 2011-03, draft version 1/13/2011, as proposed by Mayor Luke Hopkins, includes weakening changes not required by Prop A.
We find this explanation remarkable given that Proposition A: the Home Heating Protection Act stipulates nothing of the sort. Only a referendum can repeal code, and the borough attorney states that Prop A is not a referendum, but an initiative. Yet, the attorney is reading into Prop A meanings with ZERO substantiation. What’s behind the curtain forcing (some of) the weakening of local protections for our air? We have asked our Assembly members to make public Attorney Broker’s written legal opinion that supports and justifies (including with court precedent) the sweeping changes she says are driven by Prop A.
The plot thickens beyond this incoherent and unsupported logic. According to Attorney Broker, Prop A “does not require” removal of any materials off the prohibited fuels list. We’ve noted changes proposed to that list, striking wet wood and “glossy or colored papers.” Alert Assembly member Nadine Winters also noticed these amendments also and asked why. She was told both by Attorney Broker and our Mayor the removal of wet wood and glossy or colored papers from the list were not required by Prop A. Amen to that! Those changes were specifically offered by the Mayor himself. As stated by Mayor Hopkins, wet wood and glossy or colored papers needed to come off the list because they were “too difficult to enforce.”
We don’t really have strong feelings about glossy paper. It probably isn’t a big deal if a newspaper grocery insert happens to go into a woodstove. Yet, by all reasonable estimations, the burning of wet wood is the chief culprit of our smoke problem, including both acute neighborhood nuisances and federal nonattainment.
So, the illogical of how Prop A is being applied to gut our Air Quality Ordinance now stands revealed. Furthermore, the Mayor’s betrayal kicks a dog when it’s down. We like the Mayor as much as anyone, but when our attorney and mayor are lining up to gut protections for our air, you deserve to know their justifications.
Clean Air Fairbanks has researched what other communities shrouded in woodsmoke have done. The comparison is difficult as our PM 2.5 pollution peaks far higher and coal is prohibited. But you can be sure that in Bakersfield CA, (the supposed #1 most polluted city for short-term particulate pollution) prohibits wet wood because that’s a chief culprit. Refer to previous post: Highest Fine Particulate Pollution in the Nation.
While we may not care how they do it Outside, failing to take all reasonable measures to clean our own air brings with it public health and economic consequences. Using unsupported, illogical explanations and copping out on prohibiting wet wood, guts needed protections for our air and defies the public interest in the future of our community.
Somehow “required” by Prop A (no legal justification has been made available):
- removal of woodsmoke visible emissions (opacity) safeguard [8.21.020 B.1.]
- removal of trespassing smoke safeguard [8.21.020 C.]
- removal of “or used” from vendor agreement [8.21.020 F. 1.]
- removal of fines for visible emissions (opacity) violations [1.04.050]
Recommended by Mayor as “too difficult to enforce”:
- removal of wood over 20% moisture content from prohibited list [8.21.020 E. 1.]
- removal of glossy or colored papers from prohibited list [8.21.020 E. 8.]
Additional (non-controversial) “housekeeping” Amendments
- changes to the definition of pellet stoves [various]
What the Borough attorney magically allows Prop A to leave unscathed (logically inconsistent, but we’re thankful):
- entire list of materials on the prohibited to burn list [8.21.020 E.]
- prohibition of “nuisance air pollution” [8.21.020 G.]
- vendor prohibition on sale of uncertified and non-qualified heating devices [8.21.020 F.]
- Borough-wide installation requirements for hydronic appliances [8.21.020 D.]
- cash credits and cash for voluntary “swap-out and removals including deed restriction requirements [8.21.030]