FAIRBANKS — The pollution control commission plans to ask the mayor to scale back on parts of his chimney smoke ordinance, chairman Chuck Machetta said Friday.
The panel is planning to ask for smaller setbacks and lower smokestack requirements for outdoor wood boilers, which are believed to be some of the biggest polluters in the Fairbanks North Star Borough.
“The newer technologies allow these stoves to output so much less emissions,” Machetta said.
The seven-member panel is reviewing Mayor Luke Hopkins’ pollution control plan, which is laid out in Ordinance 2010-17. The commission aims to issue a final report in the coming weeks.
The mayor’s proposal sets limits on the types of solid-fuel burning devices, or wood and coal stoves, that can be installed in the borough. It limits the kinds of fuels that can be burned and sets fines for chimney smoke pollution. It also establishes government subsidies to encourage people to swap their dirty stoves for cleaner ones.
The commission unanimously approved a motion generally supporting Hopkins’ plan but has been meeting to develop a list of recommendations.
“We are trying to see things that Mayor Hopkins didn’t see,” the chairman said.
For example, the Hopkins administration has proposed strict regulations on outdoor wood boilers, also known as hydronic heaters, with stack heights that must be five feet higher than any residence within 140 feet.
“If they are 25 to 30 feet off the ground, how are you going to get up there and put a brush down them?” Machetta said.
The commission also thinks the borough ought to develop a more comprehensive repair program for older wood stoves. The mayor’s repair plan focuses only on replacing timeworn catalytic converters.
In addition, the commission wants the borough administration to write a better description for nuisance. The current description says that no one’s chimney emissions can be “injurious to human life or to property” and the smoke must not “unreasonably interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property.”
Machetta called the statement too open-ended.
Glenn Miller, the borough’s air quality director, said town hall meetings to detail the plan to members of the public are being planned.
A mandate by the federal government to clean up the air prompted Hopkins’ measure, which has drawn both praise and angry opposition in the community.
Wood smoke is believed to be the No. 1 contributor of airborne fine particulate matter known as PM 2.5, which scientists say is unhealthy. The average particulate level in Fairbanks air exceeds federal guidelines.
The voters last fall were given a choice of whether they wanted pollution control policy to be developed by the state or the borough, and the majority selected the Fairbanks North Star Borough.
Doing nothing places the state in jeopardy of losing federal aid, officials have said.
Under Hopkins’ measure, those who violate chimney smoke regulations would face fines of up to $500. Designated borough employees would measure emissions’ opacity using techniques approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.