Fairbanks residents sue EPA over air quality, pushing for borough compliance

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska - While a group of residents in Fairbanks voted in October to remove the borough's control of air quality enforcement, another group is currently suing the Environmental Protection Agency for not doing enough. Residents from the Fairbanks North Star Borough are suing the EPA for not holding the borough accountable for not complying with the clean air act.

Fairbanks residents from the groups 'Citizens for Clean Air', 'Alaska Community Action on Toxins', and the 'Sierra Club' are involved with the lawsuit and 'Earthjustice', a non–profit environmental law firm is representing them.

Patrice Lee from the group 'Citizens for Clean Air' says this lawsuit aims to have the EPA hold the borough to a timeline.

"We need to clean up our air, because it's a health and safety issue, and people have been at risk for a long time now, decades but definitely the last 10 years, as our air quality has deteriorated," Lee said.

Lee says there is no animosity towards the EPA involved in this lawsuit. In a written statement, EPA spokesperson Suzanne Skadowski writes, "Since the area reached serious non–attainment, both the state and EPA have dedicated significant resources to developing a plan to solve the air quality problem in Fairbanks. We support the state's efforts to implement the wood smoke curtailment program and we appreciate the borough's continued public outreach and education on this important public health issue," she said.

We also spoke to a resident of north pole who is a wood burner.

"If the lawsuit would open the door to wider options for the EPA or any of the regulatory agencies to use to help combat PM 2.5, it's a good thing. I think if the lawsuit leads to the EPA cracking down harder on curtailment only. It's a bad thing. We won't know how that plays out until it happens," said Wendy Mannan.

Members of the wood burners group and the citizens for clean air have been working together to try to find solutions to the poor air quality in the borough.

"They've graciously come to our meetings. We've come to theirs and hope to be invited again, and the whole community fairs better when we work together," Lee said.