Sciences Academy says air quality measures should remain in Fairbanks

Posted: Thursday, May 09, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Scientists who advise Congress recommend keeping in place federal air quality standards that have placed Fairbanks on the same bad air list as Los Angeles.

A recent preliminary report by the National Academy of Sciences said the Fairbanks North Star Borough should expand carbon monoxide monitoring and try harder to reduce emissions during temperature inversions, the weather phenomena blamed for occasional high readings.

The academy recommendations include making the biennial vehicle inspection and maintenance program annual, providing more places to plug in cars, increasing public awareness and requiring the use of special fuels.

Borough officials had hoped the report would persuade Congress to ease up on carbon monoxide restrictions in Fairbanks. High levels in the past put the borough in jeopardy of being ordered to restrict the number of cars on the road.

''What we're kind of looking for is some type of exceptional event clause,'' said Max Lyon, borough transportation director. He still believes the report will help because it acknowledges that Fairbanks is a special case.

''Three hundred sixty-four days a year we have good, acceptable air, probably better than any other place on a day-to-day basis,'' Lyon said.

The borough has not exceeded federal carbon monoxide standards in more than two years but is vulnerable because temperature inversions are common. The inversions, coupled with light winds, trap carbon monoxide released by vehicle cold starts.

The report recognizes the weather phenomena. But scientists who wrote it still believe that potential health hazards outweigh the difficulty Fairbanks has in keeping carbon monoxide levels down.

State officials have tested people in Fairbanks to look for a link between health problems and the colorless, odorless gas and found no links. The testing has been criticized by the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, which says the testing was narrow.

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