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Fairbanks

State officials expect to miss December deadline to reduce Fairbanks air pollution

FAIRBANKS — Alaska officials need another 10 years to reduce air pollution by half in Fairbanks, but the deadline is Dec. 31, they said.

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan proposed a bill offering new deadlines as early as December 2023 or as late as December 2028 to comply with smoke pollution standards, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

Extended pollution exposure could erode human health, the World Health Organization said.

The bill, which was introduced Aug. 1, was created at the request of state officials, said representatives under Sullivan. The bill could also push back the deadline for completing a new clean air plan to June 2021.

A draft pollution cleanup plan maintains that 2029 is the earliest Fairbanks could reach federal air quality standards, the state Department of Environmental Conservation said. The state has plans to complete the final draft of the State Implementation Plan to the Environmental Protection Agency by Dec. 15.

If the December clean air quality deadline passes, a five-year extension could be requested, state officials said. If that request is denied, a new plan must be developed, and officials have already started.

The proposed bill "seeks to create new law establishing that the people in Fairbanks have less right to clean air than everyone else," said Jeremy Lieb, an attorney with Earthjustice. Other environmental groups have opposed the loosening deadlines.

“We have shared concerns regarding the timelines established in the Clean Air Act and our ability to actually implement changes to improve our air quality within the time frames,” Borough Mayor Bryce Ward said. “I was not aware until this week that Senator Sullivan’s office had drafted a bill to change the timelines. I am looking into what the bill does and how it would affect the community if adopted by Congress.”

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