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What you don’t know about Fairbanks’ air can hurt you.

When calling air alerts, the Borough considers only hourly PM2.5 measured at two monitors: the NCore at the FNSB Administration Building in downtown Fairbanks and the North Pole Fire Station on Hurst Road. Fairbanks monitors showing higher PM2.5 than downtown Fairbanks are ignored, then removed. In fact, every other PM2.5 monitor is ignored, regardless how high it reads.

When reporting air pollution to the public, FNSB and ADEC must stop cherry-picking monitor data to ignore neighborhoods with high PM2.5.

How can you speak up? Write an email:

  • Air agencies must stop ignoring Fairbanks monitors that have higher readings than the NCore monitor in downtown Fairbanks.
  • The Borough must stop removing monitors from Fairbanks and North Pole neighborhoods that show high PM2.5.
  • Tell them how air pollution has harmed you.

Send your email to:
FNSB Assembly assembly@co.fairbanks.ak.us
Mayor Karl Kassel mayor@fnsb.us
Kathleen Hook – APCC Chair khook@doyonutilities.com
Governor Bill Walker bill.walker@alaska.gov
Commissioner Larry Hartig – DEC larry.hartig@alaska.gov
Commissioner Valerie Davidson – DHSS davidson@alaska.gov
Commissioner Gary Folger – DPS gary.folger@alaska.gov
Administrator Dennis McLerran r10administrator-mclerran@epa.gov
Please send a copy to cleanairfairbanks@gmail.com

How does of ignoring monitors harm health in Fairbanks?

The NP Fire Station PM2.5 monitor frequently records levels categorized by EPA as “Unhealthy,” triggering numerous Stage 2 and Stage 3 burning requirements. From Jan 1 to Feb 11, 2016 for North Pole, agencies declared seven Stage 2 and eleven Stage 3 air alerts. When people know the air is polluted, they have a chance to take action.

During the same period for Fairbanks, agencies declared five Stage 2 and no Stage 3 air alerts. The NCore monitor at the Borough Admin Building in downtown Fairbanks uncommonly records elevated PM2.5 (mainly when North Pole Coffee Roasting Co discharges its putrid plume). Alerts are based on 24-hour averages, hiding higher hourly emission spikes.

What monitors should have been considered?

The Chena Pump monitor has recorded PM2.5 categorized as “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups.” Monitors at Hamilton Acres and the Watershed School recorded Unhealthy but were removed by the Borough. The Dixon Road, North Pole monitor recorded PM2.5 higher than the NP Fire Station but was removed by the Borough.

How is my health harmed when monitors showing higher PM2.5 are ignored? 

When people don’t know their air is polluted, they have no chance to take change their behavior. When no Air Alert has been declared, residents don’t know schools and playgrounds may be unsafe or that breathing is life endangering. Athletic training and competitions are held not knowing high PM2.5 readings were ignored. Residents on the ridges or from out of town don’t know when the air is unsafe or when they need to stay away from Fairbanks. Solid fuel users keep burning because they don’t know health-based PM2.5 limits were exceeded.

Which agency ignores monitors?

Both. Borough Air Quality Forecast and ADEC Air Quality Advisories/ Episodes websites reflect data from only two monitors in the borough.

What are Stage 2 and Stage 3 heating device restrictions?

Stage 2: “Burning is permitted in all EPA-certified solid fuel burning appliances, and EPA Phase II qualified hydronic heaters with an annual average emission rating of 2.5 grams or less, masonry heaters, pellet fuel burning appliances, cook stoves, and fireplaces. No fuel source may be added to the combustions [sic] chamber or firebox of any solid fuel burning appliance or waste oil burning appliance not listed above.” Detailed description.

Stage 3: “No fuel source may be added to the combustions [sic] chamber or firebox of any solid fuel burning appliances, masonry heaters, pellet fuel burning appliances, cook stoves, fireplaces, or waste oil burning appliances.” Detailed description.

Are the agencies following the law?

No. A Stage 2 air alert is “implemented when concentrations exceed or are forecasted to exceed 35 µg/m3” and a Stage 3 air alert is “implemented when concentrations exceed or are forecasted to exceed 55 µg/m3” (FNSB Code 8.21.040 E).

When monitors show 24-hr concentrations over 30 µg/m3, 20% opacity limits, “shall be initiated at a 24-hour average concentration of 30 μg/m3 based on a 24-hr rolling average of the 1-hr BAM measurements” (SIP III.D.5.11-6). “BAM” monitors are the Borough’s real-time, hourly monitors. 20% opacity limits have never been publicized when 24-hr concentrations exceeded 30 µg/m3. (FNSB NOASH waivers do not apply to state opacity limits.)

Further, ADEC and FNSB “will declare” a PM-2.5 air quality advisory “if, in its judgment,” conditions exist that “might threaten public health” 18 AAC 50.246(b). PM2.5 threatens heath when 24-hr levels exceed 35.5 µg/m3, the Air Alert level set in the Alaska State Implementation Plan (SIP III.D.5.11-4).

It is not “judgment,” but bias, to call air alerts for North Pole while ignoring monitors with high PM2.5 in Fairbanks.

Which agency is at fault?

Both. The state delegated responsibility on area sources to the Borough (ADEC-FNSB MOU for Air Pollution Control 2010). Yet, both must follow the laws and regulations. The Clean Air Act “states that the SIP must provide necessary assurances that, where the State has relied on a local government for the implementation of any plan provision, the State has responsibility for ensuring adequate implementation of such plan provisions” (SIP III.D.5.12-1).

 

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Recent FNSB releases of public records disclose 1,034 complaints since 2008.

Cruel air pollution this winter:

COAL: “Someone in our neighborhood is burning coal I believe, it’s a horrible smell coming into our home causing everyone to have headaches. I also have premature twin infants and do not want this to affect their health. We have air purifiers going in our house but the smell is very strong. Thank you.”

COFFEE: “This company has piped burnt coffee pollution in the air for over 2 years. The burning particulates get in your eyes and lungs. My 75 year old mother is constantly sick from the odor. She has lived in her home for 57 years and has respiratory illness from it. The pollution is so prevalent that you can breathe it up to 6 or 7 miles from the company. Many families complain to the state and the borough to no avail. The owners live far from their burning odors and are not responsive to the calls complaining about this pollution. It is not just an odor it is making my mother sick. Please respond. When the weather is very cold the inversion layer keeps the pollution locked in the greater Fairbanks City area. Please respond. Thank You.”[Previous to filing this complaint, complainant had contacted the state and was advised by ADEC to complain to FNSB. When complainant did so, FNSB “assigned” case to ADEC, saying “Odor violates State Regulation 18 AAC 50.110.” Is it air pollution or a hot potato?]

WOOD BOILER: “This outdoor hydronic heater is used to heat the greenhouse where the owner grows flowers for sale. He told me 2 years ago that his neighbor has complained to him but nobody else. He is some 500 feet from Ticasuk Brown School. I took this photo yesterday as I drove around my neighborhood looking for contributors to my terrible air quality. The smell from his burner took my breath away.”[FNSB measured 2,126 µg/m3, highest ever recorded.]

TRASH: “Neighbor burns trash every Tuesday between 3-6pm, has been going on all summer but now trying to shovel and has asthma and smoke has become unbearable. Not sure which neighbor.”

COAL AND WOOD: “I was right at the corner of the Steese Hywy South of Curry’s Corner and the Post Office. My eyes burned, by skin was irritated and I had some labored breathing after being down there. I wear a mask to pick up my mail now. I know it’s not healthy to be down there and the postal employees should be interviewed because they have made serious comments. I don’t feel comfortable commenting for them but someone should ask them.”

VEGETABLE OIL: “This has been an ongoing issue, the fumes are noxious and potentially dangerous.It smells like chemicals, or wires burning…. Sometimes accompanied by dark smoke coming out of a pipe protruding from the front of the “shop.” Can you please look into this issue?”

COFFEE: “Putrid, disgusting odor of burnt rubber or other material having been cooked to the point of being scorched being pervasive in the windless, downtown area this morning when I was there in and out of my vehicle, between 8:30 am and 10:30 am in the area of Gaffney Rd. and as I was going toward the downtown post office and then along the Chena River on First Avenue toward the Carlson Center….”

UNKNOWN: “We are regularly, subjected to a very strong odor of burning material, I think it is coal smoke. The odor is so strong that it is present inside our office building when all doors and windows are closed. It causes irritation of the nose and eyes.”

WOOD BOILER: “There is an outdoor boiler located behind this residence. It is can be accessed off of Skyline. It is the first driveway on the left after the Skyline/Summit Intersection. The property owner has been harvesting green wood from the front of his property. When the outdoor boiler is fired the smell and smoke covers the neighborhood. He does not seem to run it consistently, but when it is burning the pollution levels are high. We moved specifically into this area of town to avoid the air pollution problems of the valley. This boiler has been installed since our move 5 years ago. We have great health and welfare concerns. This area has an extensive network of trails and is an area used by runners, bikers, and skiers. Last week we were on an early morning walk and the smoke was so thick and dense that we could hardly breathe. This boiler has introduced a hazard to the health and well being of all the residents in the entire area. We would appreciate your investigation into this situation and your advice on what recourse we have as concerned neighbors. You will note that I did not put an event end, as it is ongoing whenever the boiler is fired.”

WOOD BOILER: “In order to make this air quality complaint actually go through I just filled in the start date and time [ongoing pollution]. The people being affected are in the Volunteer Fire Fighter Residence behind the Fox Transfer Site. The smoke has been bad, sometimes it’s worse than other times. I am a young person who has started to have cardiac symptoms. An EKG suggested that I was experiencing repolarization of my heart conductivity. That is a bad thing to be happening and not what should happen to a young, otherwise healthy person. I have had a work smoke exposure the summer of 2015 and now have been living in this smoke during the winter of 2015-16. I will try to find another place to live. Please investigate this area. We will also attempt to find help monitoring.”

COAL: “The house 2 doors down to the right of me has excessive coal smoke blowing thru our front yard causing headaches and nausea whenever I open the front door. I have a young son who cannot play outside.”

Ongoing, “putrid” air pollution:

FNSB air quality complaint records undercount concerns about air pollution. Many complaints are for air pollution that has gone on for years. Complainants may have given up due to lack of agency response. Individuals may be injured by air pollution, yet never file a complaint.

In 2015, FNSB terminated its online complaint form, diverting all complaints to ADEC’s statewide air quality complaint webform: https://dec.alaska.gov/Applications/Air/airtoolsweb/Complaints

Some complainants identified the air pollution source by address; many do not or cannot. Complainants described conditions that make source identification difficult: darkness, infiltration into homes, workplaces, or schools, and all-pervasive ambient air conditions.

Complainants were often referred to ADEC, that with one exception (Alaska v. Straughn) has taken no enforcement action. Many received no follow-up communication. ADEC passed a problem burner to FNSB who “assigned” it back to ADEC like a hot potato. Complaints have been assumed to be “personal” conflicts until multiple individuals complained about a single source address.

Complainants frequently were about smoke from wood stoves, hydronic heaters (boilers), and coal. Complaints were about North Pole Coffee Roasting Co. (1502 Minnie St, Fairbanks), Justa Store (446 Old Chena Pump Rd, Fairbanks), and Labrenz Landscaping Inc. (2759 College Rd, Fairbanks).

Complaints were from inside the Fairbanks PM2.5 nonattainment area and outside, including Moose Creek (a mile outside nonattainment boundary), Harding Lake area, and Chena Hot Springs Road corridor.

Complaints occurred at all times of year, not only in winter months.

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Prop 2 Sample Ballot 2014, page 2

Prop 2 Sample Ballot 2014, page 2

Oct. 7, 2014 is the FNSB municipal election. Registered voters will decide on Proposition 2 that prohibits the Borough from any regulation of heating appliances or fuels. Please vote “NO” to allow local government to take action to improve your air and health.

Proposition 2 “prohibits the borough from regulating in any way heating appliances or combustible fuels.” Assembly Factual Resolution, approved 8/14/2014

2014 Sample Ballot. The image links to the sample ballot posted by the Borough.

Citizens for Clean Air – No on Prop 2 submitted the following position statement opposing Prop 2:

Vote “NO” on Proposition 2

Proposition 2 prevents local government from taking action on the most significant issue facing our health and economy: Fairbank’s air pollution.

Vote “NO” to allow local government to take action to stop reckless pollution.

Our opponents want you to vote “yes” to tie the hands of local government. They want officials to do nothing to stop those who have injured neighbors and schoolchildren. They want government to sit on its hands while a few continue to burn irresponsibly. Our opponents are fiddling while Fairbanks burns.

Vote “NO” to take back the Borough’s ability to stop air pollution. Local air pollution has sickened many, forced families to move, lowered property values, reduced business investment, and, in all likelihood, contributed to the death of someone you know. People need to be able to heat their homes responsibly; however, tools are needed to stop thoughtless polluters promptly. This can’t be done from Juneau, or DC.

Claim: “We’ve always had ice fog in Fairbanks a few days each winter, it’s no big deal.”
Fact: It’s a big deal. It’s as serious as a heart attack. Exposure to fine particle or PM2.5 air pollution (the kind we have in Fairbanks and North Pole) “over a few hours to weeks can trigger (both) cardiovascular disease–related mortality, and nonfatal events.” Longer-term exposure can “reduce (someone’s) life expectancy…by several months to a few years.” (American Heart Association)

Claim: “Even if there’s a problem, rules and regulations won’t help.”
Fact: Some people just don’t care. Look at drunk drivers. We need a way to protect our homes and families. James Connor, former Borough air quality manager, stated, “Trash. Tires…. Railroad ties. Feces. Animal carcasses. You would not believe what they burn.”

Claim: ”If regulations are allowed, “they” will come to take your stove away.”
Fact: Essential burners, families who have only wood or coal for heating, are protected by Federal and State statutes. There are about 2,000 essential burners in the borough, and 13,000 non-essential wood burners. When air quality gets bad, people with oil burners could be asked to switch back.

Claim: “There is a problem but natural gas is the only cure.”
Fact: For most, natural gas is years away and the cost to hook up could fatally hamper this solution.

Claim: “The State and Federal Government can deal with it.”
Fact: Yes, Juneau, Missoula and Salt Lake City were all forced by the EPA to clean up their dirty, dangerous air. We can do it better, and quicker, without the heavy hand of the law.

Both sides of this issue agree that rising fuel costs make wood heat attractive. However, our air pollution will max out if inefficient stoves remain, or if people burn green wood, garbage, or plastics.

It’s a disgrace that Fairbanks is one of the top 10 most polluted cities in the US (#7 for Short-Term Particle Pollution–American Lung Association). This community values our kids, our elders, and our future! Vote “no” on Prop 2.

— Jeffrey Merkel, Mary Nordale, and Patrice Lee of Citizens for Clean Air-No on Prop 2
Submitted to the Borough Clerk Aug. 22, 2014

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New air pollution rules proposed by the State of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation are too weak to protect your health or the economy.

58 comments have been submitted on the proposed air pollution regulations for the Fairbanks PM2.5 nonattainment area. WOW! 30 in the past week! Compare w/ 56 comments submitted by residents from Liberty-Clairton, Pennsylvania on their PM2.5 attainment plan. Way to roll! More comments than a community of 1.2 million! Keep it up!

TAKE BACK OUR AIR:

Cut and paste these snazzy, new comments. Use your own words as much as possible…

First,

Set the PM2.5 trigger for Air Alerts to 35 micrograms per cubic meter or lower. The state has proposed to set the trigger at 56 micrograms per cubic meter. Nonattainment violations start at 35 micrograms per cubic meter. The trigger needs to be no higher than 35 to help prevent violations. Alaska must not be the only state in the nation with a trigger higher than 35. Juneau, AK uses 30, Washington State uses 25 and 35, Sacramento, CA uses 31 and 35, and Utah nonattainment areas use 25.

Hospitalization for heart attacks, lung ailments, and strokes increase at levels above 20 micrograms per cubic meter. A lower number better protects health. FNSB 11/29/2012, p 11. Scientific evidence and medical harm support a trigger of 20 micrograms per cubic meter. A level of 56 is cruel because it gives no protection to sensitive groups such as people with heart or lung problems, diabetics, elders, children, and developing fetuses.

Add section for public notification of Air Alerts. Establish “check before you burn” website, email notifications, toll-free phone number, and other media outlets. Air pollution can continue to increase after an announcement of unsafe levels of air pollution depending on how well the order is communicated and public response.

[Personalize it — Say how much air pollution has cost YOU financially. Were you hospitalized? Did you miss work? Were you prescribed medicines? Did you buy an air filtration system? Say so; specify your financial cost.]

PASTE your comment in Form Field #5: https://dec.alaska.gov/Applications/Air/airtoolsweb/FormalComments
IMPORTANT: CHECK
the “fiscal impacts” box.
ATTACH supporting documents to show how much air pollution has cost you financially.

Second,

The proposed regulations need to include an exemption for essential residential heating during a temporary power outage and where a solid fuel-fired heating device is the sole source of heat. Exempt devices must be registered by a cut-off date and upgraded when the property is sold. A exemption for essential residential heating is standard in other states including California, Washington, Nevada, and Utah.

A new definition should be included for “essential heating” to provide for residential heating needs that are absolutely necessary.

PASTE your comment in Form Field #8: https://dec.alaska.gov/Applications/Air/airtoolsweb/FormalComments IMPORTANT: CHECK the “fiscal impacts” box.
ATTACH supporting documents to show how much air pollution has cost you financially.

CLICK “Submit Comments” at bottom of form to submit both comments.

The state will email a copy of your comments to you. Please forward a copy to: cleanairfairbanks@gmail.com

FORWARD this message to a friend because we need help to take back our air.

Thank you.

More:

If you prefer to submit all your comments at one time, download, edit, and send Word DOC on this post: Take Action: Comment for Clean Air on Draft State Rules. Post also has links to the proposed and current regulations.

Will Alaska DEC listen? If you specify what air pollution has cost you and you check the “fiscal impact” box, DEC must listen. To get their ear, specify dollar amounts (estimates are better than no numbers) and attach supporting documentation. State law requires agencies to “pay special attention to the cost to private persons.” AS 44.62.210.

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Update: DEC added evening hours for a Fairbanks hearing, 5 to 7 pm on Jan 7, 2014. [Way to go commenters!]

New air pollution rules proposed by the State of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation are too weak to protect your health or the economy.

34 comments have been submitted on proposed air pollution regulations for the Fairbanks PM2.5 nonattainment area. Compare with 56 comments submitted by residents of Liberty-Clairton, Pennsylvania on their state plan for PM2.5 attainment. Come ON! We can do better than a community of 1.2 million!

TAKE BACK OUR AIR:
Cut and paste comments on two sections…

First,

The State of Alaska has no limits to prohibit what may be burned in a stove or boiler. People burn anything and everything, with poisonous effects: tires, trash, manure, plastic, animal carcasses, creosote treated wood… it has been burned in Fairbanks and North Pole, Alaska. It is time to establish rules on prohibited fuels. Please amend 18 AAC 50.076 as proposed:

  1. Prohibit burning wood over 20 percent moisture content. Burning wet wood makes excessive smoke.
  2. Prohibit burning any material not intended by a manufacturer for use as a fuel. Burning the wrong fuel in a heating device voids the warranty and can cause explosions and chimney fires, serious safety and liability concerns.
  3. Limits on prohibited fuels are needed statewide to protect health, not just in the seriously polluted Fairbanks PM2.5 nonattainment area.
  4. Prohibit burning any material that when combusted generates noxious, poisonous, or injurious fumes.

[Personalize it — Say how much air pollution has cost YOU financially. What has been burned that has harmed you? Were you hospitalized, did you miss work, were you prescribed medicines? Say so; include the cost.]

PASTE your comment in Form Field #1: https://dec.alaska.gov/Applications/Air/airtoolsweb/FormalComments
IMPORTANT: CHECK the “fiscal impacts” box.
ATTACH supporting documents on how much air pollution has cost you financially. 

Second,
The public hearings on the proposed air pollution rules are scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014 from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm. These times disadvantage individuals who work during the day.

  • Please extend the hearings to include evening hours of 5:30 to 7:30 pm.

[Personalize it — Say how much it will cost you to take off work to attend.]

PASTE your comment in Form Field #9: https://dec.alaska.gov/Applications/Air/airtoolsweb/FormalComments
IMPORTANT: CHECK the “fiscal impacts” box.

CLICK “Submit Comments” at bottom of form to submit both comments.
The state will email a copy of your comments to you. Please forward a copy to: cleanairfairbanks@gmail.com
FORWARD this message to a friend because we need help to take back our air.

BACKGROUND:

Anyone can comment. Submit as many comments as you want until Jan 23. 2014 deadline.

We’ll be in touch with more comments for you to send to Alaska DEC.

If you prefer to submit all your comments at one time, download, edit, and send Word DOC on this post: Take Action: Comment for Clean Air on Draft State Rules The post also has links to the proposed and current regulations.

CAF Report: Alaska Heating Coal may Violate Manufacturer Fuel Use Requirements

Alaska Coal: “inferior” and may “compromise any insurance claim involving damages”

Will Alaska DEC listen?
If you specify what air pollution has cost you and you check the “fiscal impact” box, DEC must listen. To get their ear, specify dollar amounts (estimates are better than no numbers) and attach supporting documentation. State law requires agencies to “pay special attention to the cost to private persons.” AS 44.62.210.

In memoriam: Maddie Guttenberg, suffered from the smoke, one of us taken too soon.

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Clean Air Fairbanks today released a new report:

CAF - Alaska Heating Coal may Violate Manufacturer Fuel Use Requirements

Alaska Heating Coal may Violate Manufacturer Fuel Use Requirements: Safety Risks from Burning High-moisture Alaska Coal

>>Link to PDF here

Summary: Coal stoves are typically designed for coal types not available in Alaska. The moisture content of Alaska coal is high relative to other types of coal. High-moisture coal burns with higher emissions and carries a far higher risk of explosions, chimney fires, and structure fires.

“Improper use and the failure to follow manufacturer guidelines can result in a disaster for the occupants of the home,” states a recent warning from the Division of Fire and Life Safety of the Alaska Department of Public Safety. “Only use a grade of coal that is recommended by the manufacturer of your heating equipment and do not put coal in a heating device that is not recommended to burn coal. Make sure that your wood or coal burning stove has been tested and approved by a third party testing laboratory such as UL.”

UL certification of heating devices is limited to fuels approved by the manufacturer. To load a stove with improper fuel‒even just one time‒voids the warranty and UL certification. UL certification is in the fine print of insurance policies, mortgage agreements, leases, and other contracts pertaining to property and liabilities.

However, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has proposed to approve “coal” and “coal pellets” for coal heaters in the Fairbanks PM2.5 nonattainment area.

The report offers recommendations to address the statewide safety risks from burning high-moisture Alaska coal in heating devices.

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Please sed a comment to the state on proposed air pollution rules. Strong rules are needed to improve the air to protect public health and the economy.

Tell Alaska DEC to:

Include October in the open burn prohibition period for the Fairbanks PM2.5 nonattainment area, AAC 50.065(f). October is the beginning of the season of limited dispersion leading to air pollution episodes from local sources in Fairbanks and North Pole. Open burning even caused an Air Quality Advisory on October 24, 2011. Please prohibit open burning from October 1 to March 31 in the Fairbanks PM2.5 nonattainment area. Include notes and evidence how much air pollution has cost you and check the “fiscal impacts” box.

Current rules allow exceptions for controlled burns with DEC approval. The open burning prohibition period would apply only in PM2.5 non-attainment areas and Wood Smoke Control. Fairbanks is the state’s only PM2.5 nonattainment area. Juneau’s Mendenhall Valley is the state’s only wood smoke control area. Current state rules prohibit open burning during an Air Quality Advisory, but do not prevent open burning from CAUSING an advisory, such as on Oct 24, 2011. Numerous complaints were filed that Oct 24th, people were injured, and nonattainment was violated–from just one open burn operation in October.

Online Comment Form Field #1 [check the “fiscal impacts” box]:
https://dec.alaska.gov/Applications/Air/airtoolsweb/FormalComments

For more info, see previous post:
Take Action: Comment for Clean Air on Draft State Rules

Comment as many times as you want. Comment deadline is Jan. 23, 2014.

It has been a mild early winter, but smoke levels are already spiking. Yesterday, Alaska DEC issued this winter’s first Air Quality Advisory:

Oct 21, 2013 Air Quality Advisory #2013-28 North Pole Oct 21 10:30AM to Oct 22, 2013 4PM

The advisory was in local news: Air quality alert issued for North Pole area 10/21/2013 FDNM

Hard to say what levels of air pollution DEC used to issue the advisory. The “real-time” monitor for North Pole currently shows “Good” but reads 37 micrograms/cubic meter, so correctly should read “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups.” The site to track previous readings has no data for any monitor.

It will be the first of many advisories. Last winter, Alaska DEC issued Air Quality Advisories for 76 days.

In the history of Air Quality Advisories, Alaska DEC has issued only one Air Quality Advisory earlier in the winter. DEC first started issuing advisories in response to local air pollution Dec 1, 2010. The earliest winter Air Quality Advisory was issued Oct 2, 2012:

Earliest on record: Air Quality Advisory #2012-21 North Pole Oct 2 10AM to Oct 3, 2012 11AM

Winter air pollution advisories are typically caused by wood and coal burning for heating. However, the source of smoke that caused the third earliest winter air pollution advisory was not heating, but a large open burn operation to dispose of brush piles from land cleared along the Mitchell Expressway:

Oct 24, 2011: Air Quality Advisory #2011-19 Fairbanks Oct 24 1PM to Oct 25, 2011 5PM

Air Quality Advisories trigger a restriction on thick smoke from a wood heating device, a safeguard in existing rules that has NEVER been enforced:

“State of Alaska Air Quality Control Plan provides the following guidance on wood smoke emission standards: A person may not operate a wood-fired heating device in a manner that causes (1) black smoke; or (2) visible emissions that exceed 50 percent opacity for more than 15 minutes in any one hour in an area for which an air quality advisory is in effect.”

What good is a state “control plan” that does NOTHING to control air pollution? The state’s approach is to consider air pollution as a pesky political issue. The state needs to be reminded that, at its core, air pollution is a danger to public health. The failure to recognize clean air is essential to ensure public health is the reason why local air pollution has become “worse than in Beijing.” Reuters 12/1/2012.

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