Fairbanks Air Quality Plan
Determination of Failure To Attain by the Attainment Date and Denial of Serious Area Attainment Date Extension Request
EPA has been supporting the work of the state and the Fairbanks North Star Borough (FNSB) to develop a state plan that can further the progress that’s already been made to improve the air in the FNSB.
This current action by the EPA includes:
- EPA’s finding that, based on monitored data, the Fairbanks area had not met current air quality standards by December 31, 2019, as required by law.
- EPA denying the State’s request to extend the attainment date to meet the standards for five more years as the request does not meet key Clean Air Act criteria.
The request to extend the attainment date to December 2024 was included in a plan the state submitted to the EPA in December 2019.
The practical effect of these procedural actions is to trigger a Clean Air Act requirement for the state to develop a new plan to further reduce particulate emissions and better protect the health of the people in the borough. The plan is due December 31, 2020.
What is the significance of this final action?
EPA is required to make this finding of attainment based on the latest 2017-2019 measurements of pollutant concentrations in the area. Alaska will now be required to submit a new attainment plan. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation anticipated this obligation and has already started work on developing this plan to attain the PM standard of 35 µg/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter) as quickly as possible.
Why is EPA denying the State’s request for an extension?
There are specific Clean Air Act criteria the state must meet for an extension to be granted. These include imposing additional controls on all emissions sources in the area and demonstrating attainment with particulate standards within the additional five-year period requested. The state did not meet these criteria. The state and EPA have been in close contact about this issue and the state does not oppose this EPA procedural action.
What’s next for the EPA?
EPA will continue to review the State’s December 2019 ‘Serious Area attainment plan’, and will propose action on this plan separately in the future. We will continue to work with Alaska to meet the additional planning requirements.
What does all this mean for air quality in the borough?
Although the Fairbanks area has yet to attain the standard, pollutant concentrations have dropped steadily since the area was reclassified to a Serious Nonattainment Area in 2017. EPA, Alaska and the FNSB will continue to collaborate on strategies for achieving attainment as quickly as possible.
- On October 17, 2006, EPA strengthened the 24-hour PM2.5 National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to 35 micrograms per cubic meter. On November 13, 2009, EPA designated a portion of the Fairbanks North Star Borough as nonattainment for the 2006 24-hour PM2.5 NAAQS, requiring Alaska to prepare and submit an attainment plan to meet the NAAQS.
- On May 10, 2017, EPA reclassified the Fairbanks nonattainment area from “Moderate” to “Serious,” requiring the state to submit a Serious area attainment plan.
- Alaska submitted the Serious area attainment plan on December 13, 2019. On January 9, 2020, EPA issued a Completeness Determination, a public notice stating that Alaska has submitted an administratively complete State Implementation Plan.
- The Serious area attainment date was to be achieved as quickly as possible, but no later than December 31, 2019. The Clean Air Act directs that, within six months of the Serious area attainment date, EPA must determine whether the area attained the standard by the attainment date.
- The plan due on December 31, 2020, will need to meet additional planning requirements.
Numerous scientific studies have linked exposure to fine particulates — approximately 1/30th the size of a human hair — with serious human health problems, including:
- Premature death in people with heart and lung disease.
- Other serious events such as nonfatal heart attacks.
- Increased hospital admissions and emergency room visits by those with respiratory ailments and cardiovascular disease.
For more information, contact Matthew Jentgen (email@example.com), 206-553-0340.