Fairbanks North Star Borough receives federal grant to fund cleaner burning appliances

State and borough air-quality regulators are working to develop programs and staff to help clean up air pollution that sets in on cold winter days in Fairbanks. (Credit KUAC file photo)

The Fairbanks North Star Borough has received a federal grant to improve local air quality. The $4 million Targeted Air Shed Grant announced by the Environmental Protection Agency last month is the latest aimed at reducing fine particulate pollution from wood and coal burning.

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Borough air quality manager Nick Czarnecki says the grant will fund a a borough program that helps people convert cleaner burning fuels.

”The big difference with this funding is it’s going to target switching out solid fuel burning appliances such as wood, pellet and coal to cleaner burning alternatives such as fuel oil, natural gas or propane,” Czarnecki said.

Czarnecki says borough residents who reside within an EPA defined air quality non-attainment area can also apply for funds to purchase emergency power backup systems to eliminate the need for wood fired heaters.

”Such as a battery backup or a generator or solar panels that would provide power to their oil boiler,” Czarnecki said. “So that if the power goes out, you know, they would still have heat.”

Czarnecki adds that participating in the borough program brings a deed restriction which bans future installation of solid fuel burning devices at the property. He says the grant will take a bite out of the estimated 12,500 wood and coal burning stoves and boilers in the non-attainment area.

”We’re projecting that this money can be used to change out around around 476 devices,” Czarnecki said.

Czarnecki says qualifying residents are eligible for between $6,000 and $14,000.

”The $14,000 is specifically for if you remove a hydronic heater and go to electric, natural gas or propane,” Czarnecki said. “The incentive levels are based on the level of emission reductions we get because we want to incentivize those devices that would see the greatest emissions reductions.”

Czarnecki notes that there’s still $1.7 million remaining in an earlier EPA grant funded version of the borough program, which helps residents upgrade to more efficient wood stoves and boilers.

Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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