Public testimony wrapped up on the state’s proposed air quality regulations last week, and state officials believe they can have the regulations ready by the end of the year.
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation received about 90 comments on the proposed regulations that deal with such items as opacity limits for wood stoves and what can and can’t be burned in a solid fuel stove.
The state is developing air quality regulations to tackle the chronic wintertime air pollution in some areas of the Fairbanks North Star Borough, mainly centered around the cities of Fairbanks and North Pole. Both areas, known together as the non-attainment area, are in violation of federal clean air standards enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA requires the state, by the end of 2014, to submit documents showing the state has a plan to clean up the air.
Division of Air Quality Director Alice Edwards said the testimony is being used to fine tune the regulations before they’re adopted and submitted to the EPA before the end of the year.
“A team of staff from the Division of Air Quality are reviewing all the comments received and working with the commissioner and Department of Law staff to refine our thinking and put the final package together,” she said.
The package of regulations along with the expected arrival of clean burning natural gas in the coming years is expected to clean up the air by 2019, a date that many clean air advocates say is too distant.
The public response to the state regulations was much more muted compared with when an earlier draft of the regulations was shown off last year. That initial draft, which had fewer specifics and more time for public testimony, drew much more interest and particularly strong opposition.
DEC spokesman Ty Keltner said about 330 people submitted comments on the last set of regulations.
Keltner said the comment sessions have produced ideas that won’t be able to make it into the plan submitted to the EPA in the coming days. But he said those ideas could find a place in amendments and updates to the plan.
“There were a lot of ideas that came up during this last round of public comment,” he said. “DEC will continue to consider these other suggestions and will continue to work with the Borough Assembly and the rest of the community to develop ideas to improve air in the Fairbanks North Star Borough non-attainment area.”
The Borough Assembly is considering its own set of air pollution regulations and, unlike the DEC, has the power to enforce its air pollution regulations through fines or citations.
Many assembly members were critical of the state’s regulations, saying they didn’t do enough to clean up the air. But they grudgingly supported the regulations.