Fairbanks Assembly Ends Fine Particulate Emissions Standards

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The Fairbanks Assembly has approved an ordinance that eliminates fine particulate emissions standards and fines for violating them. The changes come in response to a proposition passed by voters last fall that stops the borough from banning, prohibiting or fining people for the use of home heating devices.  Borough Attorney Rene Broker said the proposition leaves the assembly no wiggle room to go after people who smoke out their neighbors.

The assembly heard hours of testimony Thursday night from people who claim public health should supersede an unregulated right to heat.  Fairbanks resident Douglas Yates advocated for retaining key provision of the old smoke ordinance, equating the responsibility to regulate air quality to basic traffic law enforcement.

Assembly members were sympathetic to people who testified about health problems precipitated by smoke, but ultimately passed the weakened ordinance 7 to 1.

The new law retains a popular old stove and boiler repair, replacement and removal program, and adds clean burning pellet appliances as a go to option.  It also keeps in place educational outreach on clean burning, and a ban on burning high smoky fuels like railroad ties, plywood, and wet cord wood.

Assembly members agreed the panel is far from done grappling with fine particulate pollution.  The Environmental Protection Agency requires the Borough and State to develop a plan for bringing Fairbanks air quality into compliance with federal standards by December 2012.

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