State air-quality regulators invite public to review PM2.5-cleanup plan documents

The documents made available for public review by the state Air Quality Division show several measures that state and local air-quality regulators are considering including in the State Implementation Plan that will help reduce air pollution in the Fairbanks-North Pole area, which can become especially hazardous during cold winter days. (Patrick Cotter/PDC Engineers)

State air-quality regulators are inviting people who live in and around the borough’s air-pollution-plagued Non-attainment Area to take a look at a series of draft documents that outline the problem and proposed solutions. A local air-quality advocate says it’s important residents read the documents, to understand more about what’s being proposed to help clean up the area’s air — and to participate in finding solutions to the problem.

Listen now

State Air Quality Division Director Denise Koch says the documents made public by her agency Thursday are drafts that when completed later this year will form the basis of the so-called State Implementation Plan, or SIP, that will lay out how the Fairbanks area can reduce its PM2.5 emissions.

“These are the building blocks, if you will, of the SIP,” Koch said.

Koch says agency officials posted the documents to promote a two-way of exchange of information between them and the public. She says some portions of the documents are incomplete and require information they hope area residents will help them fill in.

“There are data gaps,” Koch said. “And we’re asking the public for additional information.”

The documents dozens of references to those gaps, such as how much Number 1 and Number 2 fuel oil is used locally, broken down in to residential and non-residential use. Koch says the agency also wanted to make the documents available to inform people about how it will oversee local efforts to reduce PM2.5 emissions to attain federal air-quality standards in what’s now called the Serious Nonattainment Area.

“We want complete transparency,” Koch said. “We know that this is a very important issue to the community, and we want people to be able to look at our early thinking.”

Longtime local air-quality advocate Jimmy Fox says he’s already reading through the documents, and he urges all other area residents to give them a look, so they can appreciate the complexity of the problem and understand the measures the Air Quality Division is planning and considering.

“This is the chance to kind of kick the tires on these draft documents and help the state come up with an implementation plan that we can live with,” Fox said.

Fox says it would behoove residents to get to know the many different strategies that’ll be employed under the SIP to clean up the air in the nonattainment area – and that are sure to raise eyebrows. They include such measures as requiring installation of emissions-control technology on so-called stationary sources such as powerplants, which would boost the cost of electricity for ratepayers. Also, possible requirements on the use of ultralow-sulfur heating oil, a costlier but cleaner-burning fuel.

“What I’m reading here is that preliminary estimates is that switching to that (fuel) to help address the problem would cost the average household and extra three to four hundred bucks a year in heating oil costs,” Fox said.

Fox says the locals can help the state understand more about the situation here in Fairbanks, and could provide information to regulators that would help them develop a better plan that would work for this area.

“What makes this plan successful is our ownership of that,” Fox said, “And I hope that all the citizens in the borough don’t shy away from this opportunity.”

Fox says some portions of the documents are fairly technical and can make for dense reading. But he says overall, they should be pretty understandable to most folks.

Koch says the Air Quality Division wants comments on the documents before May 23. They can be found on the division’s website, which is accessible off the state Department of Environmental Conservation homepage.

Tim Ellis is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

Previous articleMan armed with knife dead after Anchorage police say he charged officer
Next article2018 mayoral candidates & ballot propositions