State focuses on pollution rules for Fairbanks, North Pole

FAIRBANKS — Alaska officials are outlining new measures to control pollution in the Fairbanks North Star Borough, as federal regulators plan to upgrade two borough cities from moderate to serious air quality non-attainment areas this summer.

Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation officials say the new rules for Fairbanks and North Pole will have the most immediate impact on wood sellers, home sellers, and power plant operators, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

The DEC issued letters last week to real estate professionals and borough officials outlining the new rules and detailing what the reclassification will mean for the areas. Denise Koch, the director of air quality for the department, said the new classification under the federal Clean Air Act is expected to be announced in the Federal Register in June or July.

“We don’t want there to be surprises,” Koch said.

The state’s proposed regulations include requiring homeowners to remove old wood-fired heating devices, such as wood stoves and pellet stoves, before selling their properties. Power plant operators would be required to place additional filters in their smoke stacks. Commercial wood sellers in the nonattainment areas would need to register with the state and report the moisture content of their firewood.

Local law requires wood burned in the borough to have a moisture content of 20 percent or less. Under the new state requirement, woodcutters will need to split three pieces of wood for each cord, document the moisture content and provide that information to the customer.

Elizabeth Schok, president of the Greater Fairbanks Board of Realtors, said the organization is looking into how the new rule will impact the rights of homeowners.

“It is definitely something that we are aware of and looking into,” she said.

“Obviously, we think air quality is important, but we have to balance that with the rights of home ownership.”

Efforts to improve air quality in the two areas have already been underway, with power plants taking additional steps to reduce emissions and businesses voluntarily disclosing the moisture content of firewood.

Woodcutter Wayne Hunter participated in the voluntary program and said his business already lets customers know it sells green and uncured firewood.

“We advertise from the beginning that we are selling the freshest greenest wood that money can buy,” Hunter said. “We built the business on that premise.”

Koch said the state is still weighing different options for its new list of pollution control measures and is waiting for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to provide its complete list of expectations. She said any changes for power plants and home heating will be open to public comment.

“Any sort of regulation or change that we would ever do would come with a public process,” Koch said.

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