Fairbanks advocates file another lawsuit against EPA over air quality

Fairbanks area air quality advocates have filed another lawsuit aimed at forcing the Environmental Protection Agency to adhere to Clean Air Act deadlines. Areas of the North Star Borough suffer from regular wintertime fine particulate pollution episodes as emissions from wood, coal, oil and other burning are trapped at ground level by inversions. Patrice Lee, a coordinator with Citizens for Clean Air, says the suit filed against the EPA is specific to a missed deadline requiring reclassification of Fairbanks and North Pole as a serious non-attainment area.

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“When the EPA doesn’t make those findings, then communities tend to ignore their obligation or they don’t use effective means to clean up the air.”

The latest suit, the 3rd since 2014, filed Tuesday by Citizens for Clean Air, and Alaska Community Action on Toxics, comes as the EPA considers dividing Fairbanks and North Pole into separate non-attainment areas. The state and borough proposal is premised on reduced fine particulate pollution readings in Fairbanks, and consistently more severe air quality episodes measured in North Pole.
Lee says more current monitoring shows neighborhoods in both communities can experience extreme pollution spikes.

There’s pockets where things have improved. There’s pockets where have gotten worse.”

Citizens for Clean Air has deployed its own network of air quality monitoring devices. The Fairbanks North Star Borough assembly approved funding this summer for dozens of similar monitors to better track air quality in more areas.