Fairbanks North Star Borough proposal draws crowd to testify, with most opposed

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska — Fairbanks area residents would face steep fines for spreading pollution under a proposed air quality measure being considered by the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly.

About 75 people attended a meeting on the proposed ordinance Tuesday before the Air Pollution Control Commission, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (http://is.gd/uabyRA) reported. Most of the 40 people who testified were against the proposed ordinance, which outlines smoke opacity requirements as well as possible fines.

Pollution problems in Fairbanks and North Pole have landed the area on the federal Environmental Protection Agency's watch list.

Under the proposal, fines for smoke pollution crossing property lines would start at $500, and fines for violating emissions standards would start at $100.

The ordinance also would prohibit people from selling homes with old, dirty wood stoves in smoke pollution zones. In those zones, only clean-burning heating systems could be installed.

The assembly is scheduled to vote on the measure Jan. 29.

"It's a targeted attack on homeowners that want to heat their homes," said Travis Anderson, one of those who spoke out.

Sponsors of the measure include assembly member John Davies, who called pollution a serious health issue that is causing deaths in the borough. Members of the audience were skeptical about that claim.

"Prove it," some people called out.

Davies cited a study of numerous cities with problems with particulate pollution where deaths and hospitalizations were tracked. Davies estimates that air pollution is responsible for about 50 local deaths each year.

Ruben McNeill Jr., a respiratory therapist, said the health impacts cited by supporters of the ordinance are "out of proportion" and "dramatized."

Greg Egan was among those speaking in favor of action by local government to address air pollution.

"If you don't have clean air, nothing else really matters," he said. "If we are waiting for the perfect document, our kids will be in schools full of smoke."


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

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