Murkowski: EPA Should Aid Fairbanks in Meeting New Air Quality Requirements

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, sent a letter this week to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson urging her to reconsider the agency’s refusal to provide grant assistance to the Fairbanks North Star Borough to meet new particulate matter standards (PM 2.5) for air quality.

“In a community where electricity costs more than twice the national average; where the EPA has dragged its feet in permitting the restart of the Healy clean coal power plant; and where residents face the coldest winter temperatures in urban America; I would hope that the EPA would show greater awareness of the extreme economic hardship that the new air-emission enforcement standards may cause,” Murkowski said.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough has asked the EPA for $1 million to fund a program to encourage local residents to upgrade their existing wood and coal-fired stoves and boilers, which are predominately used for home heating, to reduce air pollution. The EPA responded that it does not have the funds available.

Murkowski questioned the agency’s refusal to provide assistance, citing millions of dollars the EPA has spent on environmental education and research, including funds sent for research in Russia.

“How is it that the department has funds to promote environmental education, but does not have the funds to help reduce soot and particulate matter that the agency finds have direct and significant human health and environmental impacts in its own rule implementing stricter PM 2.5 standards,” Murkowski asks in the letter. 

“At a time of tightening federal budgets, it is extremely painful for me to see your agency favoring foreign nations over American citizens in the provision of grant aid to meet tightening air standards…. I hope the agency will reconsider and promptly provide financial grant assistance to help the Fairbanks North Star Borough… from coming Fiscal Year 2012 funds. If the agency absolutely cannot, I hope you will work with the borough and city to delay implementation of any penalties should the area fail to meet new PM 2.5 standards.”

The full letter is attached.