JUNEAU, Alaska – The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is targeting the week of May 13th to make available for public comment a draft Serious State Implementation Plan (SIP) for the Fairbanks North Star Borough fine particulate matter (PM2.5) nonattainment area. DEC, in partnership with the Fairbanks North Star Borough, will hold meetings with stakeholders and members of the public in Fairbanks that week to present the draft plan and answer questions.
“Local solutions are critical to improving air quality and we look forward to engaging with the community on the draft plan and associated regulations in the coming months,” said Commissioner Jason Brune. “It is our goal to address this public health concern and meet the federal Clean Air Act requirements while developing a final plan that can best address the local air pollution problem.”
The SIP is a requirement of the Environmental Protection Agency to bring the Borough’s fine particulate matter (PM2.5) nonattainment area into compliance with the federal Clean Air Act and reduce the health effects of poor air on residents. Wood smoke from home heating in the winter, coupled with temperature inversions and other natural conditions, is a main contributor to the poor air quality in the nonattainment area.
The Clean Air Act requires that the Serious SIP include the best available controls for PM2.5, which a local stakeholder group analyzed in a comprehensive process last year. The Department is reviewing these suggestions, and will include them, where possible, as it builds the draft plan on the existing air quality programs.
The State and Borough are designing the Serious SIP in order to provide more flexibility to the local community moving forward. The agencies acknowledge that the area cannot demonstrate attainment in 2019, the current federal deadline for meeting the ambient air quality standard. The SIP will reflect that reality and acknowledge the need for additional time to bring the area into attainment, but will not be as focused on a formal 5-year extension request as had been previously planned. Instead the Serious SIP will identify the need under the Clean Air Act for the state to develop a plan that will reduce emissions 5% per year into the future.
“The air monitoring data has shown significant improvements over the past few years, but there is more work to be done to bring the area into compliance with the health standards. The proposed approach will provide for steady progress and allow time for air quality programs to work and for the community to succeed,” said Mayor Bryce Ward.
DEC and the Borough are planning outreach in Fairbanks the week of May 13th to present the plan and associated state regulation proposals to the community, answer questions, and gather feedback. Local input is particularly important in gaining a better understanding of the feasibility and impacts of control options. Individuals can sign up to receive email notifications from the Division on the release of this and other public notices as well as for air quality alerts.
When it is released in May, the draft Serous SIP will be posted on the DEC Air Quality website. Information related to the Serious SIP, as well as confirmed public meetings scheduled in Fairbanks, will also be shared on the site.
Tentative Schedule of Events:
May 14-16, 2019: SIP Release
June 25-26, 2019: Open House and Public Hearings
Formal public hearings will be held on the SIP and regulation proposal during the comment period. The specific times and locations are provided below and will be formally noticed with the release of the SIP. The department is anticipating the close of the comment period will be in late July.
Additions or updates to proposed events will be posted on the DEC Air Quality website.