Fairbanks borough assembly hears residents' suggestions for cleaning up polluted winter air

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska — More than 50 people lined up to speak at a meeting about possible air pollution regulations in the Fairbanks North Star Borough, and all but three urged the borough assembly to take action.

"Our dream is for our children to breathe clean air, but there's a gap between that dream and reality," said Jimmy Fox. "Closing that gap is going to require carrots and sticks."

The borough for four years was banned by voter initiative from regulating pollution but a close vote in October again authorized local measures, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported (http://bit.ly/1qAPPSP).

Fairbanks and North Pole have struggled to meet federal standards for fine particulate, which is linked to heart attacks and decreased lung function. Burning of wood to heat buildings is a major source of particulate. High fuel oil prices have prompted many residents to burn wood or coal.

In a meeting Wednesday that lasted more than three hours, residents made far-ranging suggestions, such as a ban on outdoor wood hydronic heaters or a ban on their use during air quality alerts.

Some urged a ban on wood as a source of heat in new homes, better enforcement of current air quality nuisance regulations, and smoke-free zones around day care facilities and hospitals.

Others suggested subsidies for in-home air filtration systems, limits on idling vehicles and creation of a tax for a "clean air fund" that could help people burn wood properly.

Assemblyman Van Lawrence urged caution. The testimony was nearly unilateral, he noted, but the vote extending a regulations ban failed by just 3 percentage points.

"I realize that many of the people support taking action, but there's a lot of people who are not here," he said.

Assemblyman John Davies said the meeting was a starting place.

"The point of this meeting is to hear from the folks in the borough," he said. "It's my intention that we move forward with additional steps."


Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com

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