UPDATE 2/10/2012: Audio tapes from 1/31/2012 APCC public hearing posted on http://www.aqfairbanks.com. No mention made of borough staff approval of the Titan 2 coal boiler on 1/24/2012. To listen to the audio, you may have to save the file onto your computer first.
- Introduction through AQIP update (25 mins) CLICK HERE
- Discussion of proposed ordinance 2012-09 (24 mins) CLICK HERE
- Public Comment (45 mins) CLICK HERE
- APCC Discussion (39 mins) CLICK HERE
- APCC Recommendation & Closing comments (21 mins) CLICK HERE
Last night, Jan 31, 2012, the Air Pollution Control Commission voted 3 to 2 to recommend proposed Ordinance 2012-09 with no changes. After further pressing by the Mayor and Borough staff Glenn Miller, the final vote was 5 to 0 to recommend. If approved by the Assembly, the ordinance will take Fairbanks backwards.
Citizens pleaded for changes to improve the air we breathe, but no action was taken to address their concerns. Ordinance co-sponsor John Davies from the Borough Assembly described the intent: not to help on PM 2.5 nonattainment but rather to address nuisance complaints.
Addressing nuisance complaints seems like a great idea. Residents who’ve reported over 500 smoke complaints to the Borough would especially agree. 141 complaints from the Woodriver Elementary School area alone. More complaints have been sent to Alaska DEC. Complaints identify smoke sources and health damage from smoke including arrhythmia, burning eyes, asthma attacks, sinus surgery, and doctors’ orders not to go to work because of smoke in their workplace–even when their workplace is a school. Reducing the nuisance of smoke is commendable. Especially as so little progress has been made. Not one of these complaints has led an agency to find a violation.
Problems in 2012-09 reported to the APCC include:
- Approves installation of qualifying new coal-burning appliances. Currently, Borough code prohibits installation of new coal burning appliances within the PM 2.5 nonattainment area. [Map] The proposed ordinance would allow new coal units that meet EPA’s guidelines for wood-burning hydronic heaters. EPA’s guidelines gave Woodriver no protection from two outdoor wood boilers (Central Boiler 2300 Phase 2 qualified by EPA), notorious since 2008. EPA’s wood-burning device guidelines were never intended to approve coal units. The push for this change is from the North Pole coal dealer with a “business plan” to sell a “large number” of $21,000 Titan II coal boilers. Businesses will be lured to swap out their cleaner oil heating systems for more polluting coal units at the expense of all who breathe.
- Requires the use of EPA Method 9 to measure smoke opacity. Method 9 works fine Outside, but doesn’t work in the cold with wet fuels like wood. Make the opacity method enforceable by adding the Alaska exception, otherwise this is a useless paper exercise. If the method to determine opacity can’t work on heavy smoke plumes, there will never be an opacity violation. Hiding smoke in water vapor is going backwards. Use the method in DEC’s Air Quality Control Plan testing procedures.
- Sets a relatively high opacity limit of 50%. Lower the opacity limit from 50% to 30% or 20%. Anchorage uses 20% with the Alaska exception. Responsible wood burners can easily meet a 30% or lower opacity limit. We all benefit from lower smoke emissions.
- Only addresses nuisance smoke in the nonattainment area. [Map] All Borough resident have a right to breathe healthy air. Winter smoke pollution has disabled residents outside the nonattainment boundary line. Their complaints are going unheard. The state and Borough negotiated to leave Moose Creek off the map and now EPA will do nothing for them. EPA will only consider improvements within the designated nonattainment area.
Moving backward undermines efforts to reduce the epidemic of harm and suffering from unhealthy smoke and to meet PM 2.5 attainment. As written, Ordinance 2012-09 takes us backwards. We can and must do better.
For more on 2012-09, see: Testify Tuesday Against Weaker Smoke Ordinance to Air Pollution Commission.
Also see The Business Plan for More Coal Burning Units.