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Fairbanks Group Files Lawsuit Against EPA for Unsafe Air

Published On: Apr 27 2014 04:43:52 PM AKDT
Fairbanks Feb 13 Poluution levels

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ANCHORAGE -

An alliance of residents and local groups have filed a lawsuit against the EPA for failing to uphold the Clean Air Act in Fairbanks.

According to lawsuit documents, the group, which is working under the banner of Citizens for Clean Air, is suing for the Environmental Protection Agency to take action against the State of Alaska for not filing an "implementation plan to combat persistent violations of air quality standards for fine particulate matter (PM-2.5) in the Fairbanks North Star Borough", which members of the group say is putting local residents in danger of worsening health.

“Other communities in the nation have made progress to improve their air quality and make their cities healthy places to live," said Lou Brown, a Co-Coordinator of Citizens for Clean Air, on their website. "State of Alaska officials, by contrast, have done almost nothing to address the severe and dangerous air quality—with the EPA complicit in their inaction. The failure to act is hurting the health and welfare of children and families.”

Under the Clean Air Act, enacted in 1970, states are required to adopt and enact plans to reduce the amount of known elements that harm air quality and to ensure that air quality standards are met. The EPA is tasked with enforcing air quality standards and plans created when states or regions do not meet the minimal standard.

The lawsuit claims that the state of Alaska was required to “develop and submit to the EPA a state implementation plan” by December 2012 to improve the air quality in and around Fairbanks, but has failed to do so. The EPA, in turn, has failed to enforce the deadline and issue an official finding that would give the state a firm two-year deadline.

“We have to ask the Borough, our State, and EPA to do better,” said Pamela K. Miller, Executive Director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics. “It is time for urgent and responsible action.”

Despite recent debate over woodstove emissions and the controversial Aurora coal-powered plant, state officials have not implemented a new plan of action in over three years, according to the group. They are hoping the lawsuit, which also names EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Regional Administrator of Region 10 Dennis McLerran, will get the ball rolling for Fairbanks residents to finally have cleaner air.

“Heavy smoke chronically inundates a group of area neighborhoods so consistently that it has been nicknamed ‘the Rectangle of Death’,” said Dr. Jeanne Olson, a North Pole veterinarian. “We are not asking for special treatment. We are merely insisting that our government follows the law established to protect our citizens from poisons in the air we need to breathe.”

The offices of McCarthy and McLerran were not available for comment, and ACAT says they have not received a response since submitting the lawsuit on April 24.