Skip to main Content

Environmental groups plan new lawsuit against EPA over Fairbanks-area air pollution

Wood smoke pours from a residential chimney in the Fairbanks area. (Loren Holmes / ADN archive)

FAIRBANKS - Environmental groups say they are planning another lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to push action in addressing air pollution in the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

The nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice sent a 60-day notice Wednesday that it would be suing the EPA “for failing to perform a nondiscretionary duty under the Clean Air Act,” the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

The planned suit is over missed deadlines for filing a new plan for reducing elevated levels of a toxic particulate that is found largely in wood smoke and is linked to a number of health problems.

When the air is stagnant during winters in the Fairbanks area, emissions from home heating linger at ground level. The elevated pollution in parts of Fairbanks and North Pole were declared seriously out of attainment with the federal Clean Air Act last year.

Earthjustice claims the borough has the "worst fine particulate matter air pollution in the nation," reaching levels of more than double the recommended limit for unhealthy air.

Earthjustice is representing Fairbanks-based Citizens for Clean Air, Anchorage-based Alaska Community Action on Toxics, and the California-based Sierra Club.

"The Clean Air Act sets clear deadlines for planning and achieving compliance with air quality standards," said Jeremy Lieb, an attorney for Earthjustice. "The EPA and the state have repeatedly missed these deadlines, showing disregard for the health consequences of continued serious air pollution. We will continue to take legal action necessary to hold the agencies to their obligations to clean up the air in Fairbanks."

The state was required to submit a proposal for addressing pollution by the end of last year. State and borough officials are working on the plan. The EPA was to determine if the plan was complete by the end of June.

An EPA spokeswoman said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

Local news matters.

Support independent, local journalism in Alaska.