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Published as FDNM letter to the editor “No Progress” 12/15/2010. 

by Emmett Leffel, North Pole

To the editor: 

I would like to take a second to personally thank Tammie Wilson for her diligent efforts to end the buyback program of wood and coal boilers through Proposition A. Thanks to Tammie’s short-sightedness and personal agendas, she has single-handedly stopped all progress in the Fairbanks North Star Borough toward cleaner air and risked thousands of future jobs in our area because of the non-attainment of the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation on air quality. If air quality is not improved by 2012, our three-year average air quality by 2014 will not be sufficiently improved for the EPA to give us a passing grade.  

Just in case Tammie didn’t get the memo, nobody has ever “pushed back the EPA.” They hold the purse strings, so using it as a campaign slogan by any local politician is really just tongue-in-cheek. 

And for the borough, which has always favored local control, how did we stoop to Proposition A? I know if I had a wood stove, I would have preferred the borough approach and local control.  

People, wake up and smell the air. There is a way to heat your homes cheaper while improving indoor air quality and comfort. Try investing in your home and community alike, versus $12,000 worth of “cheaper fuel.” I see homeowners all over the place investing in their homes with the help of a rebate program and I applaud them. Through all of this, a saying comes to mind. “Fire in home … house is warm, fire outside …?” Keep it local folks.

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If the problem is an emergency, call 911.

* Share your complaint. Send to <cleanairfairbanks@gmail.com>. To get action, distribute widely; see: Officials’ Email Addresses.

* Report air pollution to Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation https://dec.alaska.gov/Applications/Air/airtoolsweb/Complaints/Index Include the address of the smoke source (or description of location) and how you have been “unreasonably nuisanced.” Attach photos, medical files, complaint logs. Problems reported after working hours or over the weekend may not be read until regular working hours. Check the box to request a copy of your complaint be emailed to you. To report complaints to Fairbanks DEC by phone, call 451-5173.

FNSB and ADEC need citizens to report unreasonable nuisances that inspectors can verify. Certified smoke inspectors are the only witnesses necessary for visible emission violations [Wood smoke: 18 AAC 50.075(a)(2) & 18 AAC 50.245(b). Coal smoke: 18 AAC 50.055(a)]. State and local agencies have never found or ticketed an air pollution violation.

* Report air pollution to Fairbanks North Star Borough http://co.fairbanks.ak.us/airquality/concern.aspx or to aqip@fnsb.us, phone 459-1005, fax 459-1006. Include date, time, address of the smoke source, & description of air pollution problem.

Report a safety problem in public schools and buildings to FNSB Human Resources Dept., Div. of Health & Safety http://co.fairbanks.ak.us/hr/Pages/EmployeeSafety_ReportSafetyConcern.aspx  phone 459-1456, fax 459-1187.

Keep your own log of smoke problems, including descriptions, photos, videos, and daily notes. Smoke Complaint Log PDF or Smoke Complaint Log DOC Collect medical records and receipts relating to how you have been harmed by the air pollution.

Your confidentiality: Complaints may be submitted anonymously. However, complaints submitted with name and phone number allow more resources to be assigned to your complaint.

* Report air pollution in City of Fairbanks to the City Council http://www.fairbanksalaska.us/city-council/contact-the-council

* Report air pollution in City of North PoleMayor Bryce Ward bryce.ward@northpolealaska.org phone 488-8584, fax 488-3002, cell 888-4444.

* Report environmental violations or emergencies to the EPA or send smoke complaints to EPA Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran r10administrator-mclerran@epa.gov (800)424-4372. (EPA Region 10)

Is my complaint about a “violation” or an “emergency”? Read EPA’s explanation of the difference between a violation and an emergency. “If you are involved in or witness an environmental emergency that presents a sudden threat to public health, you must call the National Response Center at: 1-800-424-8802.”

  • You are not alone. Residents have submitted over 500 air quality complaints in our community since 2008.
  • Move. Your health is worth it.
  • Protect yourself and those you love. Avoid exposure. Don’t assume your child is safe at school from exposure to harmful levels of air pollution. Don’t assume your employer will make sure that your workplace is safe from smoke.
  • Share your complaint with others. Complain to your union, employer, child’s principal, and school superintendent; file workers’ compensation claims; boycott smoky churches and businesses; contact your elected officials; submit complaints to all relevant pollution control agencies.
  • Pursue legal options. Have you or a family member been injured by air pollution? Take legal action to stop an injurious source of air pollution and to be compensated for your injuries. Don’t wait. A two-year statute of limitations may apply. Injury includes physical harms and economic losses. Contact a personal injury attorney. Be willing to pay to start the process. No attorney has been willing to take air pollution injury on a contingency basis.

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