State releases proposed air quality rules that include limits on fuels that can be burned

Proposed state regulations for meeting federal air quality standards include limits on what could be burned in wood stoves.

In areas with chronically bad air, such as Fairbanks and North Pole, the regulations call for using dry wood, wood pellet products, manufacture-approved biomass fuels and manufacturer-recommended starter fuels for October through March, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported ( ).

The proposed regulations were released Monday. They are included in the State Implementation Plan due by the end of 2014 to the Environmental Protection Agency to show how the state will reduce chronic winter air pollution in Fairbanks.

Dry wood has a moisture content of less than 20 percent. Wood with more moisture burns less efficiently and creates more pollution.

The regulations make provisions for burning wet wood if it's mixed with "manufactured compressed wood logs." Cindy Heil of the Department of Environmental Conservation's Air Quality Division said state tests with pellet logs burned with wet wood found dramatic reductions in air pollution.

Fairbanks and North Pole regularly are out of compliance with federal air standards because of particulate emitted from wood burned by people trying use an alternative to expensive home heating oil.

Research ties particulate pollution to heart attacks, decreased lung function and premature death in people with heart or lung disease.

The Department of Environmental Conservation is taking public testimony on the regulations through Dec. 19.

The EPA set a 2015 deadline for areas that regularly have poor air quality to meet the federal air standards. Heil said 2019 is a more likely target because the EPA uses a three-year rolling average to determine compliance and there are years with poor quality in the 2015 average.

"Given that last year was poor and this year is already looking poor, unless we have a clean air next year, the three-year average is looking like we will still violate," she said. "The Clean Air Act allows you the extra time to meet the standards."


Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner,