News Releases

News Releases from Region 10

EPA, ALASKA TO WORK TOGETHER ON IMPROVING FAIRBANKS AIR QUALITY

05/01/2017
Contact Information: 
Suzanne Skadowski (skadowski.suzanne@epa.gov)
206-553-2160

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

“Fairbanks North Star Borough faces an especially difficult challenge of meeting existing pollution standards for a number of reasons including a high reliance on woodstoves and wood heaters to stay warm.  We recognize their challenges and will work closely with the state of Alaska and the Borough to find solutions that will achieve both clean, healthy air and warm homes,” said Tim Hamlin, director of EPA’s Region 10 Office of Air and Waste.

The community faces an especially difficult challenge when its fine particulate levels spike during the many cold air inversions that occur each winter. One of the biggest contributors of fine particulates are the woodstoves and wood heaters many Borough residents use to heat their homes. The big challenge is that the need for heat is greatest when burning wood is most likely to be harmful to public health during severe cold air inversions that trap the fine particulates from wood smoke closer to where people are breathing the polluted air.

While we understand the logistical limitations of the Fairbanks community, switching sources of home heating, especially during cold air inversions, can greatly reduce harmful particulate emissions. Using dry wood in professionally installed certified woodstoves and using techniques to burn it hotter reduces fine particle pollution and the amount of wood burned.

FINAL ACTION

  • 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. More info here: https://www.epa.gov/ak/fairbanks-air-quality-plan.
  • 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.