EPA action over air quality could cost Fairbanks transportation funds

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By KIM JARRETT | THE CENTER SQUARE

Despite federal assurances that the change would have no significant impact, the Fairbanks-North Star Borough could lose state transportation dollars after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rejected part of a plan to reduce winter pollution.

The EPA issued a conformity freeze that affects the 20-year Long Range Transportation Plan and 4-year Short Range Transportation Improvement Program, according to Jackson Fox, executive director of Fairbanks Area Surface Transportation Planning, or FAST.

“When these planning documents are frozen we cannot add any new transportation projects to these plans or significantly modify funding amounts for existing projects (anything that would trigger a Plan Amendment),” Fox told The Center Square. “We can only implement the projects that are already on the books with little to no modification. The nature of transportation projects, however, is a constant moving target with frequent funding and schedule changes so it will inhibit our ability to implement our program effectively and possibly even lose transportation dollars in some cases.”

The EPA said in a news release that state and local officials should have an air quality plan approved in July, and “formal approval of that plan would eliminate any practical impact of a freeze.”

However, Alaska has a short construction season due to winter weather. Without approved funding, projects slated to begin in spring could be sidelined.

The conformity freeze is part of the Clean Air Act, first enacted in 1970, when things were different, Fox said in a letter to the EPA sent earlier this year.

“The Clean Air Act of 1970 was passed to protect public health and welfare at a time when pollution from vehicles was serious problem in urban areas and included a correlated sanction for withholding Federal highway funding, yet in present time the EPA touts major successes in vehicle pollution control in the U.S. by stating vehicles today are 99% cleaner for most tailpipe pollutants than in 1960s and 1970s; thus, making the 53-year old sanction no longer relevant,” Fox said in the letter.

Vehicle emissions are responsible for only 6.8% of emissions in the area, according to Fox.

“The sanction would severely impact the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities and FAST Planning, which have no control or influence over other emission sources (i.e. woodsmoke) that are actually causing the problem,” Fox said in his letter. “These punitive measures on transportation make the appearance the EPA is not truly focusing on helping solve the problem (i.e. efforts where progress can be made in the highest emission source categories).”

The State of Alaska had one victory in the EPA’s ruling. The agency will not require the State to mandate ultra-low sulfur diesel for home heating. The move was considered “neither practical nor affordable” after further analysis, EPA said in its report.

34 COMMENTS

  1. The EPA needs to be dismantled. Their building in DC needs to be demolished and the ground salted so nothing ever grows there again.

  2. Alaska needs to become less dependent on Federal Funds. Here is exactly why. 1. Dictating policy & behavior to the states and hence local jurisdictions. And 2. The Federal government is spending way over budget anyway because our federal legislators want to be seen as bringing home the bacon, no matter how much debt it causes.

    We may have to lower expectations on spending ourselves, but we are, after all, a state with a total population of only 750,000 +|-.

    • We need to tell the feds to get out of state business.
      They are after our money and riches that will go to the politicians and their rich friends.

      • Dave is right; if you take the King’s gold you do the King’s bidding. The only way to tell the feds to shove it is to end our dependence on their money for everything.

    • I agree with Dave. The vast majority of the tax dollars collected in the name of this country are squandered on things that have little or nothing to do with this country. Chasing after the pittance that remains and squandering rights and liberties in the process is a fool’s errand.

      The EPA created this problem out of thin air when it eliminated it’s vehicle emissions fiefdom and needed something to replace it in order to maintain control. Their edict “identifying’ PM 2.5 as the boogeyman was the gift that keeps on giving for them. The communists tightening their grip, “for the collective good” are what we are looking at here. Really nothing more, or nothing less.

    • I agree, also, with Dave’s statement. I said this before to Sullivan, but he is still convinced that taking government’s money is the only way that we are going to survive apparently.

  3. Although I do agree with your direction here, perhaps ‘twould be better to burn it down and in its ashes plant an elm tree: like the one that was planted in 1646 near Boston Common and 120 years later served as the meeting location for the Sons of Liberty. The duality of symbolism here- a symbol of the environment (a tree) turned back around and used as a symbol contradictory to the regulatory overburdening of that leviathan bureaucracy- would serve to provide a perpetual backhand slap to the face of such institutions.

  4. The EPA is one of many overgrown, bloated, agencies that need to be reduced in size and scope. We have unelected officials with far too much power and money. They’ve gone far beyond what they were originally intended to do.

  5. Should be no problem with all of the new revenue from running diesel polluting mining trucks up the Richardson Highway

    • Oh “Frank”…

      I really hope someday you get to live in the world you espouse. I really do.
      It’ll be fun to watch.

      • I came to Alaska in 1983 with everything I owned in a pick up truck. Alaska has been good to me and your barbs are moronic. Only losers hide behind anonymity

  6. Not much detail about what measures, precisely, EPA are insisting upon.

    A brief summary of the disagreements would have greatly improved the article.
    Scanned quickly the 190 page agreement, appears that EPA wants stronger punitive measures taken against the local population – and wants the Alaska government to do the dirty work. Appears to be a fair amount of verbiage about ‘environmental justice’ – no surprising considering the enforcing bureaucrat is a left wing Indian activist/lobbyist out of Seattle.

    For example,
    Idling your auto to keep it warm during -40F temperatures? EPA wants you ticketed or fined, but they don’t want their employees ending up on the wrong end of a dispute with a pissed off citizen – so they withhold our share of federal dollars unless Alaska acts as their unwilling enforcer.

  7. This was exactly how former FNSB mayor Luke Hopkins tried to start a civil war in Fairbanks about a decade ago. Wood stove burners would be monitored and neighbors could anonymously rat out each other in the name of dirty air. The threat of federal transportation funds being withheld was Hopkins switching stick. Hopkins was a loser, just like his son Grier, and his son-law- law, Scott Kendall. All in the family.

    • Didn’t know that Scott Kendall was the son-in-law of wacko, climate change politician Luke Hopkins. Didn’t Hopkin’s kid, Grier, lose his last election up in Fairbanks? It seems that the crooked Democrats are all related.

  8. If the EPA was actually serving its intended purpose, it would be going after the nano particle dispersions that get sprayed on ALL of our heads, on the regular. Thats rught 2.5 microns dwarfs the truly harmful chemical cocktails that are INTENTIONALLY imposed upon all of us, with the associated deleterious effects to our health.

    What a bunch of wankers.

  9. I think the best way to “protect the environment” is mass deforestation and mass paving.

    With any luck it would trigger mass progressive suicide and end their carbon footprints.

    I grant you it will hurt the luxury yacht industry, the private jet industry, the tacky mansion industry, and Hollywood. All sacrifices I can live with.

    To “protect the environment”, of course.

  10. The EPA like ALL Federal agencies operate outside of congressional laws. This has been normal practice for decades. Federal agencies have become more emboldened because of radical employees, radical political appointments heading agencies, and incremental power grabbing, establishing precedent over time.
    With this three head monster the only way out is to sue.
    Next year the U.S. Supreme Court will take a case involving the over reach of Federal Government outside of Congressional legislation. Hopefully this will be a monumental change in the USA for the better by over turning a ruling by the Supreme Court that created this mess.

  11. Periodically, Fbx trots out of loss of transportation funds fears of which federal funds it has little of anyways. Post Boooooosh, DOT regulations were essentially defanged. They are now in the paws of each state. It’s highly unlikely Juno DOT would yank FBX federal transportation funds for FBX inevitable annual air inversions. Silly, to defend this beloved myth. Juno needs those infusions of federal overhead monies from tiny Fbx transpo projects as well as the next guy.

  12. The EPA is expanding its authority into private homes through funding programs by coercing states to implementing there controls or loss that funding. What’s really criminal is the idea that they are trying to regulate private people in the homes to a higher standard than what they regulate industry too. the standard for industry is PM 10, not 2.5. The state needs to tell them “NO”, if they really want to improve air quality, then they need to permit other affordable energy solutions in our state and fund that. Or maybe we just claim we are an EPA Free sanctuary state.

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