FAIRBANKS, Alaska — The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a new deadline for Alaska to develop a plan to clean up Fairbanks air that's been deemed dangerous to breathe.
The federal agency on Tuesday proposed that the state formulate a plan by Dec. 31, 2014, to address a chronic winter particulate problem in Fairbanks with, which can cause health problems for the young, the elderly and the weakened.
The state missed a 2012 deadline for a plan, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported (http://bit.ly/1iv32FG ).
"EPA's proposed rulemaking that's now giving firm and clear deadlines for State Implementation Plans to be submitted," said Cindy Heil of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. "If this new rule passes, we're not late."
The proposed deadline is a response to a lawsuit by the Natural Resources Defense Council, which claimed the EPA was lax with its air pollution requirements.
Heil said the state expected the deadline change.
"We're looking to meet this one, and that's what we're focused on — continuing to do our regulation proposal and release our air quality plan in the spring," she said. "But this clarifies the rules and the deadline, and we're still supposed to show attainment by the end of 2015."
Missing deadlines could mean serious sanctions. The federal government could withhold money for highway projects, set strict requirements for new power plants or impose a federal attainment plan.
Much of the particulate problem is tied to smoke produced by homeowners trying to cut their fuel bills by burning wood. Municipal officials say natural gas is the long-term solution.
The state plan will include improved systems for issuing air quality alerts, stronger regulations on solid fuel heating devices and options to limit wood burning when air pollution is highest.
Fairbanks North Star Borough officials are limited in what they can impose. Borough voters in October 2012 passed a citizen initiative that bans borough regulation of home heating devices.
The EPA announced its proposed deadline as borough officials on Tuesday declared an air quality advisory through Friday.
Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com