Archive for the ‘Illegal Coal-Gate’ Category

KUAC Morning Newscast, 2/24/2012 by Dan Bross, 00:00-01:36
Fairbanks Borough Assembly passes new emissions standards, FDNM 2/24/2012

The vote was 5 to 4 to approve the sponsor substitute as amended. Supporting were: John Davies jdavies@fnsb.us>, Nadine Winters <nwinters@fnsb.us>, Diane Hutchison <dhutchison@fsnb.us>, Mike Musick <mmusick@fnsb.us>, and Karl Kassel <kkassel@fnsb.us>. Please send a note of your appreciation. Opposed were: Matt Want, Guy Sattley, Natalie Howard, and Michael Dukes.

The Basics: What the Assembly did Feb 23, 2012

Added to code: the “apples is oranges” amendment to approve coal appliances as though they burn wood, effective today.
Removed from code: staff discretion from the appliance approval process, effective today.
Added to code: 30% opacity limit with the Alaska exception so smoke cannot hide in water vapor, effective Oct 29.

Thank You!
Many residents — mostly women and mothers again! — testified last night against the approval of the Titan 2 coal boiler, against allowing more coal appliances thru Section 2 of 2012-09, and in favor of the 30% opacity standard. Your descriptions of how you and your family have been damaged and harmed at work, home, and school shouldn’t be ignored.

  • A Woodriver Elementary School employee related what she was told when she described her problems breathing to the school nurse, “Oh dear. You’ll just have to get on an inhaler like the rest of us.”
  • Another resident described how her husband had been sick for two weeks and couldn’t work for a week because of coal smoke in her neighborhood. “The air on Gilmore Street is often heavy with coal smoke.” Her family lives on the same street as the director of the Air Quality Program, and he burns coal. Who can she turn to for help?
  • Resident after resident described thick smoke and physical harm they’d endured while dog mushing on the Chena, coming into town, and in their homes and neighborhoods.

Beyond the Basics

The 30% opacity limit seems promising. However, if Proposition A is renewed by citizen’s initiative Oct 2, 2012, Borough Attorney Rene Broker will advise the Assembly to vote to remove this health and safety protection from code, and the opacity safeguard will never take effect. The Assembly has been willing to add enforceable provisions, the 2011 Air Quality Zone Ordinance and the 2010 Air Quality Ordinance. Yet, not one step has been taken for enforcement. Here’s the response given to a recent public record request for all records related to investigation of any air quality complaint, letters sent to any smoke emitter, or any citations: None exist.

Despite numerous requests from testifiers, the Assembly did not discuss the improper approval of Titan 2. That approval was given in secret on Jan 24 and hidden from the public and the Air Pollution Control Commission during their hearing Jan 31. Transportation Director Glenn Miller and Mayor Luke Hopkins were not present and thus could not be questioned.

Assembly members made a single change to Ordinance 2012-09 (sponsor substitute). On line 45-46, the sentence that read:  “The appliance shall be so listed by the Borough if:” was removed. In its place a new sentence was added: “The appliance shall be so qualified and listed by the Borough only if:” Apparently, Borough Attorney Rene Broker read the previous phrase to mean staff had free rein to approve the Titan 2 coal boiler without requiring that it meet any emission standard at all. According to Attorney Broker, the new language removes this”discretion.”

Thank you Assembly member John Davies for offering the motion to close this loophole. Too bad staff were told to let the horse (Titan 2) out of the barn first! This discretionary authority loophole wasn’t known to exist until Jan 23, then was used once, on Jan 24, to approve Titan 2 on the sly. Convenient abuse of authority. The original language gave staff no discretionary authority to qualify or list or otherwise approve an appliance that did not meet an EPA emission limit standard.

Approved without discussion was language in the sponsor substitute for Ordinance 2012-09 to allow staff to approve coal-burning appliances as though they burn wood. The phrase “in a similar category” allows an auger-fed coal boiler to be judged by EPA emission limits standards for burning wood or grain. No requirement is included to consider the lead, selenium, chromium, cobalt, manganese, nickel, and arsenic emitted by coal boilers and coal stoves or the health impacts from these toxics. No requirement to consider sulfur and nitrogen oxide emissions which convert to PM 2.5. The issues of toxic metals and secondary PM 2.5 are associated with coal, not wood. This “apples is oranges” amendment is as stupid as it sounds. EPA doesn’t have emission limit standards for coal for good reason; EPA has  “significant emission concerns” about coal appliance emissions. As should Fairbanks residents and leaders.

The apples is oranges loophole was opened for a special interest, not to improve air quality or protect the interests of residents who heat with wood. It achieves the intent and purpose of the local coal and coal appliance dealer as described by  their attorney, Barbara Schuhumann:

The purpose of the test was to obtain certification by the Borough that this boiler met the air quality standards that apply to wood-fired boilers.” OIT Inc public records request 8-25-2011

As you know, Titan 2 never met the standards because it was tested at low according to OMNI lab. Last night, Dr. Jim Conner reported surprising information: Titan 2 was tested at 65% burn rate, not the 35% rate reported by the EPA certified OMNI lab. OMNI “walked” Titan 2 through its paces June 7, 2011, the OMNI lab’s Oct 14, 2011 and Dec 23, 2011 report drafts stated 35%, and he used that 35% burn rate data to approve Titan 2 Jan 24, 2012. Last night it swells to 65%? Incredible. No written explanation is available to be independently reviewed. Further, Dr. Conner’s epiphany does not answer why Titan 2 was tested at any rate other than maximum as required by EPA to qualify a Phase 2 pellet boiler. It does however affirm why discretionary authority was invented. Staff were unable to use EPA’s standard because EPA’s procedure hadn’t been followed. Effective today, the way is now clear for the next coal boiler to be approved, Titan 1 perhaps. Borough staff would better serve the needs of the public if they stopped to consider the full consequences of their actions, not merely primary PM 2.5. Evidently, this requirement needs to be included in code as staff are not arriving at it on their own.

Close one loophole invented for Titan 2. Open another to allow more coal appliances by pretending coal burns like wood. On the whole it was a surreal commentary on a community that has lost its way. Innocent children are in danger. Residents have been permanently damaged. Our community’s economic future is at risk. And, the highest hope this town can offer is a paper promise to chase smoke next winter, but only in response to complaints, and only if the Borough attorney doesn’t recommend removal of the provision this October.

This outcome is what Assembly member Nadine Winters has called “the art of the possible.” And Transportation Director Glenn Miller has said, “It will get worse before it gets better.” Oh please.


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[UPDATE 2/24/2012: At the Assembly hearing last night, Dr. Jim Conner approached Clean Air Fairbanks to verbally “revise” the tested burn rate for Titan 2 from the 35% rate reported by the EPA-certified OMNI lab to 65%. OMNI “walked” Titan 2 through its paces June 7, 2011, the OMNI lab’s Oct 14, 2011 and Dec 23, 2011 report drafts stated 35%, and he used that 35% burn rate data to approve Titan 2 Jan 24, 2012. Last night, it jumps to 65%? No written explanation was provided by Dr. Conner. The only value this may alter in the graphs below is the projected emissions for Titan 2 HIGH. If correct, the projection should be x 1.54 not 2.86. This isn’t how science, especially science that affects the health of our children, is done.]

One of these devices doesn’t belong here. See if you can guess which one shouldn’t be FNSB approved?

Below are the current array of FNSB approved burning appliances which were tested by OMNI lab in 2011. The Titan 2 coal boiler was tested only at LOW so PM 2.5 emissions have been projected at HIGH. The EPA emission standard limit for a Phase 2 Outdoor Wood Boiler is 18 grams per hour.

Below are the OMNI test results for sulfur and nitrogen oxide gases that convert into secondary PM 2.5 from FNSB approved burning appliances.

Below are the OMNI test results for lead from FNSB approved burning appliances. Lead is an EPA listed Hazardous Air Pollutant.

Below are the OMNI test results for toxic metals and arsenic from FNSB approved burning appliances. Selenium, chromium, cobalt, manganese, nickel, and arsenic are EPA listed Hazardous Air Pollutants. Mercury and beryllium are also HAPs that USGS has reported are in Healy coal, but OMNI lab did not test for these toxic metals. OMNI lab testing of the waste oil burner reported “no data” for toxic metals and arsenic.

Link: Excel data sheet for these graphs by Clean Air Fairbanks [36KB]

Data Sources:

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Data Sources Helpful in Assessing Emissions from Titan 2 Auger-fed Coal Boiler

OMNI Lab Space Heating Study Fairbanks Draft Report Rev 4
Tested at low: “Two tests were performed with this unit at the same heat output rate, which was approximately 35% of the maximum achievable heat output.” p 15
Moisture content of “wet stoker coal” 33.5%, p 15
Emissions gas by-products grams/hour table p 17; Titan 2 (#28 and #29) had highest emissions of sulfur and nitrogen oxides of 9 devices tested.

OMNI Lab Draft Appendix A PM2.5 Laboratory Results
Titan 2 tests #28 and #29, pp A22-A23: Hazardous Air Pollutant are very high – lead, selenium, chromium, cobalt, manganese, nickel, and arsenic
Not tested: mercury and beryllium
#2 Heating Oil Furnace #18, p A14

EPA Phase 2 Hydronic Heater Partner Agreement, p 5
EPA emissions limit standard = 18 grams per hour cap
Continuous feed models test procedure = “two runs for the maximum burn rate”

Sierra Research Critique of OMNI Space Heating Study
…”substantial emission reduction possible when using augerfed coal compared to a conventional coal stove or coal-fired hydronic heater” p 3
No comparison to oil furnace emissions that are more likely to be replaced. Used PM 2.5 grams/ton of fuel, not EPA emission limit standard which is g/hour. G/ton is not used to approve devices based on their emissions.

FNSB approval of Titan 2 coal boiler 1-24-2012 for OIT
Asserts unwritten “discretionary authority” not in FNSB Code Chapter 8.21.020 1.A.a.

Titan 2 email 05-10-2011 FNSB low burn rate
“Low burn” rate, not high burn rate, ordered by the Borough.
Plus, the Borough was asking for 2 more days worth of coal for Titan 2, “as there is not enough from the amount that we sent.” That coal never arrived.

Titan 2 email 2011-06-06 FNSB ambient temperatures
Dr. Jim Conner had concerns about OMNI performing the tests in a warm warehouse rather than at ambient winter temperatures that go below minus 40ºF. With coal of 33.5% moisture content, at colder temperatures ice feeds directly into the combustion chamber along with the coal. This cooling could increase the byproducts of incomplete combustion.

OIT-Omni Labs email 8-2-2011 Northland Fuels Titan II – marked up
OIT/North Pole Coal’s “business plan” to sell a large number of Titan 2 coal boilers.

OIT Inc public records request 8-25-2011 Barbara Schuhumann, Esq for OIT, Inc/North Pole Coal
“The purpose of the test was to obtain certification by the Borough that this boiler met the air quality standards that apply to wood-fired boilers.” p 2

USGS report, Healy Coal Quality
“Usibelli mine coal contains high concentrations of lead and selenium and low concentrations of beryllium and mercury, all of which are designated as hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) by the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendment.”

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Update 2/22/2012: Coal use measure expected to heat up Fairbanks borough meeting, FDNM 2/22/2012 

Speak Against MORE Coal Burning in Neighborhoods and
Against Government Corruption

What: Assembly hearing on proposed Ordinance 2012-09 (sponsor substitute), see Agenda
When: Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012 @ 6 pm
Where: Borough Administration Building, Assembly Chambers, 809 Pioneer Road, Fairbanks

This is your last chance to testify against opening the door to more coal burning appliances in the nonattainment area. If coal smoke and the prospect of more coal smoke concern you, you need to say so now. This is also the time to stand up against government corruption and deceit: how the Borough illegally approved the dirty Titan 2 coal boiler and then has been covering it up.

Tell the Assembly:

  1. The approval of Titan 2 must be immediately withdrawn. (during Citizen’s Comments at 6 pm)
  2. The language in 2012-09 (Section 2, lines 55-56) to allow the Borough to approve more coal-burning appliances must be removed. (during Public Hearing at 7 pm)
  3. The Assembly should order a full investigation of Borough procedures used to approve an improperly tested and polluting coal boiler. (BOTH!)

The first coal burner the already approved by the Borough, Titan 2, will likely replace oil furnaces and emit 175 times more PM 2.5, plus high levels of toxic metals: lead, selenium, beryllium, and mercury.

The ordinance will even make our stove change-out program the only one in the nation (and perhaps the world) that pays you $2,500 to put in a qualifying coal appliance (like Titan 2) to replace a nonqualifying appliance. At under 6 cents a pound, that government cash payment intended to improve air quality would buy 21 tons of coal. Price out a ton of coal at North Pole Coal. Is this taking us backwards or what?

You may wonder why Nadine Winters, John Davies, and Mayor Luke Hopkins are doing this. Good question, it’s makes no sense and hurts our health. Ask them why they covered up the approval of the dirty Titan 2. Ask them why they want to allow more dirty coal burners and how it will improve our air quality. The coal dealer in North Pole wouldn’t have been so successful promoting coal burning as the solution to our air quality problem without help from the inside.

Email your concerns whether or not you’re coming to testify:

Matt Want <mwant@fnsb.us>
Diane Hutchison <dhutchison@fsnb.us>
Guy Sattley <gsattley@fnsb.us>
Mike Musick <mmusick@fnsb.us>
Karl Kassel <kkassel@fnsb.us>
John Davies <jdavies@fnsb.us>
Natalie Howard <nhoward@fsnb.us>
Nadine Winters <nwinters@fnsb.us>
Michael Dukes <mdukes@fsnb.us>
Mayor Luke Hopkins <mayor@co.fairbanks.ak.us>
Jeff Jacobson – Chief of Staff <jjacobson@co.fairbanks.ak.us>
Todd Thompson – FNSB Air Quality staff <tthompson@fnsb.us>
Please CC: <cleanairfairbanks@gmail.com>

Documentation and Sources on Clean Air Fairbanks: 

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The APCC and the public are being told one thing while Borough staff refer to unwritten authority to do another. This abuse of power should be of particular concern to members of the Assembly.

Link: Transcript (partial) of the 1/31/2012 APCC hearing [261KB] from audio tapes on http://www.aqfairbanks.com (Minutes not yet available.)

From that public hearing:

Transportation Director Glenn Miller said, “Right now coal appliances are prohibited for installation…. There are some new appliances that are out there now, for example the one we just looked at, that appear to be very clean as far as PM 2.5 is concerned. If that appliance is approved, that means those older appliances could be upgraded and replaced with this new appliance, which could mean less PM 2.5 for us.”

Two commissioners (Gwen Holdmann and Deborah Rinio) stated their concerns about the consequences of approving coal appliances and voted no.

Mayor Luke Hopkins said the “opportunity” for “a better burning coal stove” depended on the proposed language: “Coal, this particular issue that we are discussing here had comment and some commissioners are concerned about the door we are opening. But what we are trying to do is get these older stoves replaced, and coal is one of the issues. There is an opportunity to have a, so far what we have found it appears, a better burning coal stove. That is what [lines] 55 and 56 would allow us to be able to, if we had this language in here.”

In the end, all five commissioners agreed to Section 2 of 2012-09 to authorize the Borough to approve more coal-burning appliances.

What the APCC and public in attendance were told on 1/31/2012:

  • Current code prevents the Borough from approving coal appliances,
  • The Borough has an opportunity to allow a “very clean” coal appliance that will improve health, and
  • 2012-09 needed to be approved to allow this device to be installed in the nonattainment area and to participate in the change-out funding.

What the APCC and public in attendance were not told on 1/31/2012:

  • Titan 2 had already been approved a week earlier,
  • OMNI lab data found high levels of pollutants emitted from Titan 2,
  • At Borough order, OMNI lab tested Titan 2 only at low, yielding emission results nearly three times too low, or
  • New “discretionary authority” had been discovered in code to allow Titan 2 when no such language exists.

Review the transcript of the 1/31/2012 APCC hearing (link above) and the borough tapes for yourself. For the details and sources on what the APCC was told and not told, read the report: Why did the Borough Approve the Titan 2 Coal Boiler? Questions and Answers. The end result of this abuse of our laws and public process is greater harm to the health of innocent residents including children. It is the Assembly’s job to right this series of wrongs. To fail to do so, undermines the credibility of the plan for meeting attainment and places the health, economy, and future of our town at greater risk.

Tell the Assembly:

  1. The approval of Titan 2 must be immediately withdrawn.
  2. The language in 2012-09 to allow the Borough to approve more coal-burning appliances must also be withdrawn.
  3. The Assembly should order a full investigation of Borough procedures used to approve an improperly tested and polluting coal boiler.

Please send your message:

TO: FNSB Assembly Members <assembly@co.fairbanks.ak.us>
CC: Air Pollution Control Commissioners
Catherine Cahill <ffcfc@uaf.edu>
Lawrence K Duffy <fflkd@uaf.edu>
Deborah Rinio djrinio@alaska.edu>
Gwen Holdmann gwen.holdmann@alaska.edu>
Mark Sherman <mark@shermanengr.com>
Kathleen Hook <khook@doyonutilities.com>
Todd Thompson – FNSB Air Quality staff <tthompson@fnsb.us>

And if you would, please also share a copy with <cleanairfairbanks@gmail.com>.

Thank you!

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Report: Why did the Borough Approve the Titan 2 Coal Boiler? Questions and Answers [196KB]

The intent of this report is to make transparent the facts, data, and judgments behind the flawed decision to approve the Titan 2 coal boiler. Clean Air Fairbanks reveals what the Air Pollution Control Commission was told; the process and procedure used to approve Titan 2; the results of emission tests performed by OMNI lab under Borough contract; Titan 2’s threat to attainment; issues of abuse of power, conflict of interest, and special interest; the effect of changes proposed to current code; and what may be approved next.

>> Link: FNSB letter approving Titan 2 coal boiler, Jan 24, 2012


  1. The approval of Titan 2 must be immediately withdrawn.
  2. The language in 2012-09 to allow the Borough to approve more coal-burning appliances must be removed.
  3. The Assembly should order a full investigation of Borough procedures used to approve an improperly tested and polluting coal boiler.

This Thursday, the Assembly will consider 2012-09 to allow more coal-burning appliances to be installed in the nonattainment area. On Jan. 24, Borough staff already approved the Titan 2 coal boiler, in violation of current code. A week later, when the Air Pollution Control Commission was asked to consider 2012-09, news of the approval of Titan 2 was withheld from the commission. Mayor Hopkins and Borough staff told commissioners: “current code prohibits the installation of coal appliances.” Commissioners were also kept in the dark about the testing procedures and emissions data used to approve this coal boiler. These data and testing procedure show Titan 2 was not qualified to pass any emission limit standard for fine particle pollution (PM 2.5). Emissions data also show the smoke from Titan 2 contained high levels of toxic metals as well as sulfur and nitrogen oxide gases that convert to secondary PM 2.5. The approval of Titan 2 was made in error and violates current code.

Time Magazine places Fairbanks in a tie for fourth worst fine particulate levels in the nation, see Time Magazine’s Ten Most Air-Polluted Cities in the US 9/29/2011. Efforts are needed to support bringing the nonattainment area of the Borough into attainment with PM 2.5 standards by the Dec. 2014 EPA deadline. No action should be taken which increases unhealthy concentrations of smoke in neighborhoods and near schools and delays opportunities to meet attainment as soon as possible.

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Dermot Cole has called for Titan 2 to be “put on hold” because it was tested only at low burn, Borough approval of coal-fired boiler needs review 2/17/2012. A further concern is that Titan 2 was approved on Jan 24, 2012, but the approval was kept secret from the Air Pollution Control Commission a week later during its Jan 31, 2012 hearing.

ACTION: Tell your Assembly members you oppose the Borough’s approval of the Titan 2 coal burner and want it withdrawn immediately. 

TO: Assembly <assembly@co.fairbanks.ak.us>
CC: Air Pollution Control Commissioners
   Catherine Cahill <ffcfc@uaf.edu>
   Lawrence K Duffy <fflkd@uaf.edu>
   Deborah Rinio <djrinio@alaska.edu>
   Gwen Holdmann <gwen.holdmann@alaska.edu>
   Mark Sherman <mark@shermanengr.com>
   Kathleen Hook <khook@doyonutilities.com>
Todd Thompson – FNSB Air Quality staff <tthompson@fnsb.us>

Please share a copy with <cleanairfairbanks@gmail.com>.

Other Coal-Gate posts:

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