After the October 4 defeat of Proposition 2, the Healthy Air Protection Act, by borough voters, three routes forward have been suggested: the Assembly, state DEC, or EPA. There is a widespread acknowledgment that something must be done. The onus is on agencies and elected officials to address the local air quality problem. Only local control has the potential to avoid weeks of burn bans on all solid fuel burning devices.
Prop 2 offered voters healthy air without burn bans. Prop 2 cut over half the PM 2.5 emitted by solid fuel devices by eliminating the highly polluting wood-fired hydronics and coal appliances in the nonattainment area. Prop 2 also included 30% opacity standards and prohibited heavy smoke plumes that cross property lines. Prop 2 did not allow the Borough to apply burn bans against properly used woodstoves, Section 2 of Prop 2.
Burn bans–along with opacity limits, device regulations, and prohibited fuels lists–are used in other states with PM 2.5 problems. These tools plus burn bans have brought Juneau into PM 10 attainment, see Juneau Empire article 12/24/2008 and local code 36.40.080(b) & 03.30.055. Some states prohibit all wood-fired hydronic–Washington and Oregon for example–but communities within those states also enforce burn bans to avoid exceeding PM 2.5 limits.
There can be no argument: burn bans are effective in reducing PM 2.5 emissions. However burn bans apply even to proper use of indoor woodstoves, not just to highly polluting devices or misuse such as burning wet wood, creosote-treated telephone poles, and rubber tires.
Air Pollution Levels Rising – Fairbanks is tied for #4 on Time Magazine’s Ten Most Air-Polluted Cities in the US 9/29/2011. With no limit or no controls, it’s no surprise that our smoke pollution has gotten worse. Grandfathering existing highly polluting devices is not a viable way to reduce air pollution.
The Assembly Should Step-in – The FDNM editorial board offered its opinion that the Assembly should develop a practical method of distinguishing “clean” devices, Starting over: No time to waste in dealing with air 10/5/2011. At what cost and who will pay for it? The News-Miner recommended that the Assembly regulate air quality in an earlier editorial, Prop 2 alternative 10/2/2011. Proposition A, may not be changed for two years, so no local control measure can take effect until October 29, 2012.
The State Should ALSO Step-in – FDNM columnist Dermot Cole proposed that Alaska DEC should also get more engaged, As election smoke clears, next phase of clean air debate will begin 10/5/2011. However, the state lacks any ability to fine or ticket violators of air quality standards, see EPA’s eyes stay on Fairbanks after Proposition 2 failure 10/13/2011. The state is ill-equipped to mount any effort to reduce smoke pollution yet is not bound by Proposition A.
Without Effective State Action, EPA Will Apply Controls Dec 2014 – EPA would be required to apply the full range of control measures and economic sanctions as required by the Clean Air Act. A control plan must meet the air quality standards using “all reasonably available control measures as expeditiously as practicable (including such reductions in emissions from existing sources in the area as may be obtained through the adoption, at a minimum, of reasonably available control technology) and shall provide for attainment of the national primary ambient air quality standards.” See Title 42 Chapter 85 Subchapter I Part D subpart 1 § 7502(c)(1). Extensions are possible only after demonstrating “that all local control measures that are reasonably available and technically feasible for the area” have been implemented, see Federal Register final rule Clean Air Fine Particle Implementation, effective 4/25/2007, Federal Register, Volume 72, page 20601.
Federal controls will require new and modified point sources to meet 2-1 offsets for PM 2.5. With continued nonattainment, UAF’s proposed coal power plant [FDNM article: Aging UAF power plant creates campus concerns 10/9/2011] will have to achieve these costly 2-1 offsets. A myriad of control measures, federal sanctions, and other poorly understood economic impacts of continued nonattainment are becoming unavoidable as the federal deadline draws nearer.
Extremists thumbing their noses at reducing smoke pollution no matter what the cost are winning the race to the bottom. Our smoke pollution is among the worst in the nation and rising each year. Families, neighbors, and the economy are being damaged. Controls with stiff economic costs are unavoidable. Digging in our heels only prolongs the harm and removes our community from taking a seat at the table where those controls will be hammered out.
Residents have been harmed by excessive smoke, view previous post: 230 Reports of Life and Safety Impacts from PM 2.5. There’s no excuse for prolonging this harm. Efforts to reduce the harm to health must come from every level as rapidly as possible.