Fairbanks records cleaner air in 2001

Posted: Sunday, January 06, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- After getting through 2001 without exceeding federal limits on carbon monoxide, the Fairbanks area qualifies to get off the federal Environmental Protection Agency's bad air list.

The good record in 2001 may have been something of a fluke.

''We were just fortunate there wasn't a weather pattern that could've put us over,'' said Max Lyon, Fairbanks North Star Borough transportation director.

If the EPA agrees to take Fairbanks off the list, the Fairbanks North Star Borough will no longer be subject to severe federal sanctions. But the borough still must come up with a plan to keep from exceeding air quality limits.

The borough has been on the list of most serious air quality violators for about three years, sharing company with cities such as Los Angeles, Denver and Phoenix.

The occasional spikes in carbon monoxide concentrations have been blamed on temperature inversions that trap air and pollutants near the ground. The borough argues that the inversions are infrequent and can't be prevented, and that trapped air hasn't caused health problems.

A group of scientists that advise the federal government on air quality issues is studying the carbon monoxide problem.

The borough is hoping a report by the scientists, due out in the spring, will help exempt the borough from federal air quality standards.

Meanwhile, borough officials encourage residents to keep plugging in their cars, especially when the weather is 20 degrees above zero or colder.

''We don't want to be on any list,'' Lyon said. ''We have to demonstrate that we're going to remain this way.''

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