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DEC Proposes to Amend the Fairbanks North Star Borough Serious Air Quality Plan

  • For immediate release — September 11, 2020
  • Contact Cindy Heil, 907-269-7579

Anchorage, AK — The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will be taking public comment through October 29 on a proposed amendment to the Fairbanks North Star Borough Fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5) Serious Air Quality Plan (SIP). The Clean Air Act requires that the state address the area’s failure to meet the PM2.5 health standard by December 2019 with an update to the Serious SIP that demonstrates 5% reductions in emissions each year.

"When DEC finalized and submitted the Serious SIP to the EPA in December 2019, both agencies were aware that the area would not meet the PM2.5 standards under the Clean Air Act," said Cindy Heil, Program Manager of Air Non-Point and Mobile Sources. "That is why DEC built the Serious SIP with these new requirements in mind and let the community know during the public review period that we would be coming forward with amendments to the Serious SIP this year."

The proposed Plan amendments include technical analyses based on more recent data and show that the area should reach compliance with the ambient air quality standard in 2024 by relying on the success of control measures in the existing plan.

The proposal also adds a new contingency measure that would be triggered in a few years if PM2.5 levels are not headed in the right direction, lowering the Stage 2 Alert Level from 30 ug/m3 to 25 ug/m3. The measure would be triggered if the area fails to show continued progress in lowering PM2.5 levels to achieve federal air quality standards or fails to meet any requirements by the target dates in the updated Serious SIP. DEC does not anticipate that the new contingency measure would be triggered before 2024.

The proposed amendments to the Serious SIP also update projected PM2.5 levels for the Hurst Road monitor, the monitor with the highest PM2.5 levels in the area. Recent data showed lower PM2.5 levels than DEC had to use in the Serious Plan last year. With the new, lower PM2.5 levels in the baseline, the air quality models show the Hurst Road area reaching attainment in 2024 - five years earlier than the data and modeling shows in the original Serious Plan.

"We are pleased to report that the updated analyses in this plan show that with continued community effort the area can meet attainment by 2024. The hard work to reduce PM2.5 is paying off and needs to continue to achieve this goal," said Heil.

Air quality plans are developed following specific federal requirements. DEC has been working with EPA and Borough staff in the development of the amendment to ensure that the new data are appropriate, and requirements are met. Updated requirements and data being used for this 2020 Amendment to the Serious Plan include:

  • A new 2019 baseline year for the amendment vs a 2013 baseline in the Serious Plan
  • A new baseline modeling design value of 64.7 ug/m3 at the Hurst Road monitor in North Pole for the amendment vs 131 ug/m3 for the Serious Plan
  • Updated emission estimates and projections which include the emission reductions from the control measures identified in the Serious Plan and that demonstrate the 5% emission reductions per year
  • Updated milestone dates for progress and attainment
  • Updated transportation emission budgets for future years
  • A review of potential control measures not adopted in the Serious Plan
  • The new contingency measure proposal

The public comment period for the proposed Plan amendments begins September 11, 2020 and ends October 29, 2020. Due to COVID-19 concerns, a telephonic public hearing is scheduled for October 15, 2020 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The department will use the Legislative Information Office system for the hearing to take oral comments on the proposal. The amended Serious Air Quality Plan is due to EPA by the end of December 2020.

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