Posts Tagged ‘public comment on state air quality regulations’

2013-3 EPA Strategies for Reducing Residential Wood Smoke

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*NEW* Download post as DOC file: Take Action: Comment for Clean Air on Draft State Rules.DOC
Edit and submit by email or attach to online form #8 General Comments.

Online Comment Form:

Comments also accepted by mail, email, and fax.
Scott Sloane, Division of Air Quality, 410 Willoughby Ave #303, Juneau, AK 99801
Scott Sloane <scott.sloane@alaska.gov>
        Please CC <cleanairfairbanks@gmail.com>
(907)465-5129 fax

Comment deadline: Jan. 23, 2014.

Draft (to strengthen): Proposed Air Quality Control Regulation
Existing regulations: Alaska Air Quality Control Regulations
State webportal: http://dec.alaska.gov/air/anpms/comm/fbks_pm2-5_proposed-regs.htm

Important: Has air pollution cost you money? Comment on how you’ve been harmed financially and check the “fiscal impacts” boxes. Also, submit evidence such as receipts, letters from your doctor, number of days you missed work each year, list your expenses caused by air pollution including medical costs, cost of air filtration systems, masks, missed workdays, etc. State law requires agencies to “pay special attention to the cost to private persons of the proposed regulatory action.” AS 44.62.210.

Section Numbers Correspond to Online Form Fields:

1. 18 AAC 50.065(f) prohibits open burning in PM2.5 nonattainment areas between Nov 1 and March 31. (Currently, Fairbanks is the only such area in Alaska.)

Amend: Open burn prohibition should start October 1, not wait until Nov 1. Open burning in October 2011 caused a PM2.5 nonattainment violation.

2. 18 AAC 50.075(b) removes the prohibition against operating a wood-fired heating device during an air pollution episode and makes the declaration of any prohibition a discretionary act of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

Oppose: Do not weaken weaken air quality protection statewide by making state response to high levels of air pollution optional. The proposed change weakens current regulations by allowing DEC to ignore the numbers, regardless of how high air pollution levels rise. DEC says the proposed rule allows “flexibility” to respond area by area, but, in fact, DEC would get flexibility to not respond at all. The proposal ignores the fact that Fairbanks is in an airshed. When there is a strong inversion, all sources, even if not located in a low area, contribute to the poor air quality.

Amend: Revise to read “A person may not conduct open burning or operate a waste oil burning device, solid fuel-fired heating device, or incineration device in an area for which the department has declared an air pollution episode under 18 AAC 50.245.” Health needs and attainment can’t be met without cutting smoke from high polluting devices. Black smoke is commonly seen coming from waste oil burners associated with oil change businesses and car sales lots. An incinerator owned by a business on Chena Pump Road, a heavy smoke area, frequently adds smoke to the mix. These devices should not be operated during air pollution episodes.

Amend: Revise to lower the allowable level of opacity from a wood-fired heating device from 50 percent to 20 percent (or less) and remove “in an area for which an air quality advisory is in effect.” 20 percent opacity limits are commonly used in other communities to protect health and meet attainment goals.

3. 18 AAC 50.076 adds new section restricting materials allowed to be burned in a solid-fuel heating device in the Fairbanks PM2.5 nonattainment area.

Amend: Prohibit burning wood over 20 percent moisture content. Burning wet wood makes excessive smoke.

Amend: 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.

Amend: Prohibit burning any material that when combusted generates noxious, poisonous, or injurious fumes.

Amend: Limits on prohibited fuels are needed statewide to protect health, not just in the seriously polluted Fairbanks PM2.5 nonattainment area.

4. 18 AAC 50.077 adds new section to establish emissions limits for new wood-fired heating devices, including hydronic heaters and woodstoves, that are manufactured, sold, or installed within nonattainment areas.

Amend: Delete subsection (4)(B) so that nonqualified solid fuel-fired heating devices and waste oil burners must be removed when real estate is sold. Woodstoves and boilers can last decades. No one wants nonattainment to last that long. Better yet, require all devices to meet the new standards. Grandfathering existing devices will not help neighborhoods where air pollution levels are already high.

Amend: Two revisions of EPA’s test procedure are needed. 1) Apply the rate limit so that no emission spike exceeds 2.5 g/hr limit during any individual test run. 2) Require cordwood models to be tested with cordwood, not lumber.

Amend: Add subsection to prohibit installation of solid fuel-fired heating devices not meeting 18 AAC 50.077. This would prohibit installation of new coal burning devices. Otherwise, the new regulations favor installation of coal heaters over wood.

5. 18 AAC 50.245(a) Table 6 adds PM2.5 level that triggers the three levels of air quality episodes: alert, warning, and emergency.

Amend: 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.

Amend: 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.

6. 18 AAC 50.245(a), (b), and (c) give authorized local air quality control programs authority to declare air quality episodes and advisories and to take immediate action.

Neutral. Pro: Local government retains full authority to authorize or not and knows where hot zones are located. Con: Lack of clarity on who is in charge may result in no action during an air pollution event.

7. 18 AAC 50.990 changes the definition of wood-fired heating device. It also adds definitions for clean wood, hydronic heater, solid fuel-fired heating device, and wood heater/wood stove.

Amend: Add definition for curtailment action – “No person shall operate (combust material in) any solid fuel-fired heating device or incinerator or burn waste oil during a curtailment period. Visible smoke from the chimney shall be prima facia evidence of a violation.” Defining and taking action to limit wood burning emissions is vital to the success of any control program. According to Dr Jim Conner, FNSB Air Quality Program Manager, “It is not possible to demonstrate attainment of the PM standard without limiting wood burning emissions on high concentration days.Conner 2012, p 6.

8. General Comments on the Overall Proposal

Important: Describe how air pollution has cost you money. Check the “fiscal impacts” box and submit supporting evidence on your expenses caused by air pollution. Include medical expenses, air filtration systems and filter replacements, moving expenses, missed workdays, reduced property values, receipts, letters from your doctor, harm to your business, etc. State law requires agencies to “pay special attention to the cost to private persons of the proposed regulatory action.” AS 44.62.210.

Are these rules sufficient to meet attainment requirements in the federal Clean Air Act? These rules must equip DEC with the tools to submit a State Implementation Plan (SIP) meeting meet federal Clean Air Act requirements for nonattainment areas, 42 USC § 7501-7515. These requirements establish that a state shall use, at a minimum, reasonably available control technology and demonstrate reasonable further progress. DEC has not provided sufficient information to the public to determine that these rules will be enough to do the job. If these rules are not sufficient, the rules will need to be strengthened, entailing additional delays on controls and enforcement needed to protect health and meet attainment.

The proposed rules fail to consider control options used in other states and identified in Strategies for Reducing Residential Wood Smoke EPA 3/2013. The state is required by federal law to use, at a minimum, reasonably available control technology (see previous comment).

Action is needed to reduce air pollution now, this winter. Reference the cost information (submitted above). Why wait until 2019 or later to meet PM2.5 attainment? Children’s lungs develop every day. Heart damage can happen in hours. Further, nonattainment is already hurting property values, jobs, and the military. What will be done to end the delays and move forward with effective and enforceable rules to clean the air?

State agencies have authority to take emergency action now, this winter, under AS 44.62.250. Two steps are urgently needed to protect health this winter: 1) Prohibit installation of solid fuel-fired heating devices not meeting 18 AAC 50.077 (#4 above) and 2) Add PM2.5 trigger of 35 micrograms per cubic meter (or lower) to Table 6 in 18 AAC 50.245(a) (#5 above).

Is a new law on the way to provide for enforcement? Current law allows enforcement only through civil filings in court, not citations or tickets. Air pollution enforcement through civil actions will not be timely, cost-effective, or sufficient as a deterrent. The state delayed taking the owner of two hydronic heaters near Woodriver Elementary to court for 4 1/2 years, causing extensive injuries to neighbors, teachers, and students. Once the case was filed, it still took 6 months to be resolved. Without ticketing authority, these regulations cannot be effectively enforced. [See 20 Affidavits for the State, filed 1/31/2013]

Will the state air quality program be revenue neutral and not shift costs to the public? Other communities levy a registration fee for solid fuel-fired heating devices and fine violators.

Are other regulations on the way to limit PM2.5 emissions from power plants, the refinery, commercial and residential coal heating, incinerators, idling vehicles, and cold starts? Wood is the primary winter source of PM2.5, but the proposed regulations fail to control emissions from other sources and promote installation of highly polluting coal heaters.

PM2.5 precursors (such as SOx and NOx) that convert to PM2.5 in the atmosphere are not addressed from these regulations, yet are significant contributors to PM2.5. Coal burned in power plants, stoves, and boilers contribute PM2.5 precursors that interfere with meeting attainment.

Are other regulations on the way to protect air quality inside buildings? People exposed to PM2.5 air pollution inside workplaces, public buildings, homes, and schools are not protected under these regulations. Outside air pollution comes inside buildings. During the winter, most exposure to PM2.5 occurs indoors.

New regulations are needed to protect health outside the designated PM2.5 nonattainment boundary. Neighborhoods outside the nonattainment area face the same high air pollution levels as those inside but are offered no protection by these regulations. Unprotected neighborhoods include: Herning Road, Becker Ridge, Cripple Creek, Spinach Creek, areas off Freeman Road, Ester, and Moose Creek.

New regulations are needed to require labeling of moisture content of wood sold by firewood sellers over a certain size or to set limitations on moisture content for firewood sales.

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.

The state needs to take an active role in public education to inform residents about the importance of clean air and the effect of new regulations. Better understanding of the health-air quality connection will build public support for reducing PM2.5. Public outreach should also inform residents about state programs such as AHFC and ADHSS-public assistance.

9. Comments on the Public Review Process for this Proposal

The absurdly long, 125-day comment period on the regulations allows more installations of highly polluting devices until the new regulations are finalized. Local government’s change-out program is actively paying for installations of solid-fuel heaters that do not conform with proposed regulations yet will be grandfathered. These new heaters cannot be used during curtailments and may well require a second subsidy to be removed. Is the goal of these rules and the local change-out program to benefit manufacturers and dealers and to further delay needed action for health and attainment?

Will public comments be posted online? A higher level of public engagement will occur if DEC provides links to each comment submitted and to DEC’s response. Modern technology makes it easy for DEC to post comments and responses online, thereby allowing the public convenient and immediate access to the information.

The public hearings, scheduled Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014 from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm in Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Juneau, are inadequate for individuals who work during the day. Please extend the hearing to include evening hours of 5:30 to 7:30 pm. [DEC added a new hearing: 5 to 7 pm on Jan 7, 2014 at Fairbanks Westmark Hotel, Yukon Room – 813 Noble St.]

Alaska DEC should ask EPA to comment on these proposed regulations and the draft SIP. The regulations are the foundation for the Fairbanks PM2.5 State Implementation Plan (SIP) to be submitted to EPA by the State of Alaska. The SIP was due Dec 14, 2012. It will only cause further delay to wait for input from EPA until after the SIP is finalized and submitted. If EPA cannot accept the SIP, additional comment periods for new regulations and a revised SIP will be needed, dragging this process out for months longer. Timeline posted by DEC.

We do not support any further delays on submission of the SIP to EPA. The goals of health and attainment need to become priorities in this process.


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