Mat-Su Borough Assembly rejects agreement with state on air quality

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly voted down a resolution to increase efforts toward improving air quality at a sometimes tense meeting Tuesday night.

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Fine particulates in the air, caused by wood burning in the borough’s Butte area, has in recent years approached a threshold that if crossed would trigger federal regulations and costly management. A similar situation in Fairbanks has cost the borough there millions of dollars.

So far, the borough has advocated for the burning of dry wood. But prior to the Assembly meeting, a flyer circulated on social media suggesting the borough would someday be seizing wood stoves.

That has never been part of the air quality discussion, Borough Manager John Moosey said.

“It was never our intention to go on your property or remove your wood burning stoves. We’re not there,” Moosey said.

Still, the resolution failed Tuesday, with only Assembly member Jim Sykes voting in favor.

The resolution would have allowed a memorandum of understanding between the borough and the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The memorandum would have given the borough the go-ahead to, quote, “implement reasonable and cost-effective strategies to assist in mitigating air pollution.”

Some borough residents testified that they did not have enough information to support the memorandum. Assembly member George McKee said he understands those concerns.

“This is a very serious subject that should have a written, comprehensive, staff analysis report,” McKee said. “We have nothing like that. We’re going to try to legislate on something that we do not have the information on.”

Moosey, the borough manager, says such an analysis would itself be costly.

It is unclear what the borough’s next move will be in dealing with air pollution.