EPA starts clock on Fairbanks air compliance

Posted: Sunday, May 28, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The clock is ticking for Fairbanks to come up with a plan to meet federal air quality standards for carbon monoxide.

The city has about 16 months to come up with its plan before businesses start facing restrictions on expansion. Eight months after that, the area could start losing federal highway money.

The Environmental Protection Agency set the deadline last month because the Fairbanks North Star Borough failed to submit an air quality plan. The plan was due last year.

''We're trying to figure out how we can come into compliance, that's why we haven't submitted a plan,'' said Max Lyons, the borough's transportation director.

Carbon monoxide in the borough's air exceeded federal standards three times last year and once this year. The EPA allows one violation a year before requiring action.

In Fairbanks, cars produce most of the odorless, colorless gas, Lyons said. It is trapped in strong inversion layers in the winter air, usually during temperatures between 20 degrees above zero and 20 below.

Bonnie Thie, air quality manager in the EPA's Seattle office, said Fairbanks' long-standing trouble in meeting the standards landed it in the serious classification the year before last.

The EPA's new deadline has caught the attention of Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska.

Murkowski's chief of staff, David Garman, said Thursday that the standards seem to be impossible to meet with reasonable measures.

And while the agency is pressuring Fairbanks, it has not followed congressional mandates to work with car manufacturers to address cold-start emissions, he said.

Thie said the EPA is funding a study this winter in Fairbanks that should provide more information about the effects of cold weather, idling and engine heaters.

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