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DEC Finalizes Fairbanks Serious SIP

  • For immediate release — December 13, 2019
  • Contact: Laura Achee, 907-465-5009

Fairbanks, AK — This week the Department of Environmental Conservation submitted the State’s final air quality improvement plan, known as the Serious State Implementation Plan (Serious SIP) to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The requirements of the plan, and associated deadlines are available on DEC’s Air Quality website, along with the full SIP and response to comments received on the draft.

“We sincerely appreciate the time people took to provide input on the plan,” said Commissioner Jason Brune. “The tremendous local input we received from Fairbanks and North Pole residents, businesses, and groups was used to help better tailor the regulations and requirements for the community. This plan will ultimately improve air quality and will lead to attainment in less than a decade.”

The SIP is a requirement of the Environmental Protection Agency to bring the Fairbanks North Star Borough’s fine particulate matter (PM2.5) nonattainment area into compliance with the federal Clean Air Act, and reduce the negative health effects of poor air quality on residents. Wood smoke from home heating in the winter, coupled with temperature inversions and other natural conditions, is a main contributor to PM2.5 and the poor air quality in the nonattainment area.

The first change that most people will see is in January, with new thresholds for issuing Stage 1 and Stage 2 burn curtailments. Depending on the weather this winter, it may mean seeing more frequent air alerts compared to past years. Alerts will be called at lower thresholds to help reduce smoke sooner in an effort to prevent violations of health standards. When these alerts are in effect, burning wood or other materials is restricted, or curtailed. Individuals can sign up to receive air quality alert email and text notifications from the Division, and can apply for burn ban waivers.

Other changes in the Serious SIP include:

  • Changing from #2 to #1 heating fuel (September, 2022)
  • Only allowing the use of EPA-certified 2.0 g/h emission wood burning devices, and requiring the removal of coal-fired and outdoor wood burning hydronic devices (December, 2024)
  • Any properties sold prior to 2024 must meet the above requirements at the time of sale, and new construction may not have wood as the only heating source (January, 2020)
  • Wood-fired heating devices must be professionally installed and registered going forward.
  • Continuing to only allow dry wood to be burned, and adding a requirement that commercial sellers only provide dry wood (2021)
  • Additional requirements for businesses that generate emissions, such as large industrial sources, and smaller businesses like coffee roasters and restaurants with charbroilers.

While some requirements in the Serious SIP have extended implementation dates, the effective date of the majority of the related regulations is January 8, 2020.

Numerous changes were made to the draft Serious SIP and regulations in response to public feedback including:

  • Additional time before wood heater emission testing requirement changes and the required use of #1 heating oil take effect (September 2020 and September 2022, respectively)
  • Allowing commercial wood sellers to continue to sell unseasoned 8 foot rounds after October 2021 if certain requirements are met
  • Generally treating all wood burning devices the same for emission standards, rather than varying requirements by type
  • Updates to No Other Alternative Source of Heat (NOASH) and Stage 1 waiver provisions for solid fuel heaters

The Serious SIP builds off the air quality programs already being implemented in the community and in the coming months, DEC will be reaching out to affected businesses and the public on the new and revised requirements.

“In the final plan, we provided additional time for some requirements in response to area-specific data and feedback we received,” said Alice Edwards, Air Quality Division Director. “We hope in those cases the additional time will allow individuals and businesses an opportunity to plan, budget, and explore options for how they can meet the requirements.”

The Serious SIP does not require the EPA’s approval to go into effect. DEC staff worked in consultation with the EPA when drafting the plan and are confident it will meet the Agency’s requirements. However, the EPA may direct changes to the plan in the future based upon its review. In addition, DEC has initiated work with the Fairbanks North Star Borough to develop an updated plan to demonstrate 5 percent emission reductions per year and better project the timeline to reaching the required air quality standard given the improvements already occurring in the area. Public input on the five percent plan, which will follow release of the Serious SIP, will be requested in late spring.

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