FAIRBANKS (AP) — The Fairbanks North Star Borough is preparing to enforce more burn bans as part of stricter rules aimed at cleaning the city’s heavily polluted air.
The Borough Assembly voted 6-2 to adopt the new regulations Thursday, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported .
The goal is to address problems with fine particulate, which is a mix of solid particles and liquid droplets that can be inhaled deep in the lungs. It causes premature death in people suffering heart and lung diseases and causes nonfatal heart attacks. The new rules create a two-tier alert system to reduce the concentration of particulate that prompts an air quality alert and triggers burn bans. They also limit exemptions for burning wood or coal. Under the regulations, a partial burn ban is required under a Stage 1 alert, which means only stoves that have been certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are allowed to be used. A complete burn ban is enforced during Stage 2.
“We just don’t have the luxury to burn wood when the air gets bad,” assemblyman Van Lawrence said. “We have to consider the impact on public health as well.”
The regulations come after the EPA proposed upgrading the borough from “moderate” non-attainment for fine particulate to “serious” non-attainment. The EPA is monitoring the air in Fairbanks and North Pole.
Borough Mayor Karl Kassel said he has been pushing back at some of the EPA’s demands but also asking the assembly to enforce tougher smoke pollution regulations. Kassel is concerned that the EPA will step in with a federal plan if the borough does not show progress quick enough.
“It would be much worse if we didn’t have local control,” he said.