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EPA in Alaska

Fairbanks Air Quality Plan

Contacts

  • Technical information: Claudia Vaupel (vaupel.claudia@epa.gov), 206-553-6121.
  • Press inquiries: Suzanne Skadowski (skadowski.suzanne@epa.gov), 206-553-2160.
On this page:

Final Approval of Moderate Area Plan

EPA is approving the Fairbanks North Star Borough fine particulate or PM2.5 air quality plan submitted by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation because it meets Clean Air Act requirements for a moderate area. EPA’s final action will become effective 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register. At that time, the Fairbanks moderate air quality plan will become a part of the federally enforceable State Implementation Plan. Below you can read a pre-publication copy of the signed Federal Register notice.

Final Rule

EPA's Press Release


Reclassification from Moderate to Serious Nonattainment

EPA has reclassified Fairbanks North Star Borough as a “serious” nonattainment area for fine particulate air pollution.

  • On April 28, 2017, EPA officially re-classified the Fairbanks North Star Borough area from “Moderate” to “Serious” nonattainment for the 2006 24-Hour PM2.5 or Fine Particulate Matter National Ambient Air Quality Standard.  EPA’s final determination will be published in the Federal Register and become effective 30 days from the date of publication.
  • Under the Clean Air Act, Fairbanks was required to meet the standard by December 31, 2015. EPA found that Fairbanks did not attain the standard based on 2013-2015 air quality data and the area must be reclassified from “Moderate” to “Serious” nonattainment.
  • The State of Alaska will be required to submit a serious air quality plan for Fairbanks by December 31, 2017.  The state and the Borough are already working to develop a serious plan with technical assistance and support from EPA.
  • The serious plan must include the adoption of Best Available Control Measures and Best Available Control Technology (BACM/BACT) and demonstrate attainment of the standard no later than December 31, 2019. 

Final Rule

EPA's Press Release

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Background

In December 2009, EPA designated Fairbanks as nonattainment for the 2006 24-hr PM2.5 air quality standard. The Borough has recorded some of the highest levels of fine particulates in the nation.

In December 2014, the state submitted the Fairbanks North Star Borough fine particulate or PM2.5 moderate attainment plan to EPA. The plan demonstrated that the Borough was unable to attain the PM2.5 air quality standard by the date required.

Alaska’s air quality plan identified reasonable actions to move toward meeting the PM2.5 standard focused on reducing emissions from residential heating sources — woodstoves and hydronic heaters — that contribute to high particulate pollution levels in the area.

Alaska’s plan addressed implementation of all reasonably available control technologies and measures available including the primary source of elevated fine particulates in the Borough, wood stoves and hydronic heaters.

  • In 2015 the Borough, and in 2016 the state, approved a mandatory curtailment program to restrict the use of woodstoves during periods of harmful levels of particulates.
  • Under a curtailment program, the Borough and the state track weather conditions on a daily basis and provide restrictions on woodstove use to reduce emissions when conditions are bad for air quality and public health.

Alaska’s Fairbanks moderate plan includes two measures that the state will begin to implement upon the effective date of EPA’s reclassification of the area to serious nonattainment:

  • Require removal of inefficient wood heating devices when a property is sold, leased, or conveyed.
  • Require commercial wood sellers to register with the state and disclose to consumers the moisture content of wood they are selling for home heating.

On February 2, 2017, EPA proposed to approve the state’s Fairbanks moderate air quality plan. The comment period on EPA’s proposal closed on March 6.

EPA's final action to approve the Fairbanks moderate air quality plan was signed on August 21, 2017. EPA’s final action will become effective 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register.

EPA, the state and the Borough will continue to work together and with the local community to develop a plan to reduce fine particle emissions in Fairbanks and to achieve the standard.

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Health Impacts from Particulate Matter

Numerous scientific studies have linked exposure to fine particulates — approximately 1/30th the size of a human hair — with serious human health problems, including:

  • Premature death in people with heart and lung disease.
  • Other serious events such as nonfatal heart attacks.
  • Increased hospital admissions and emergency room visits by those with respiratory ailments and cardiovascular disease.

Learn more about particulate matter (PM) pollution.

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