- Associated Press - Thursday, July 24, 2014

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - Enough signatures have been gathered for a ballot initiative seeking to renew a law barring the Fairbanks North Star Borough from regulating home heating devices.

The “Home Heating Protection Initiative” will appear on the municipal ballot in October.

It’s the third in a series of initiatives that have barred the borough from imposing regulations on home heating devices since 2010, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (https://is.gd/eFamsl ) reported.

Fairbanks and North Pole have struggled to meet federal standards for fine particulate that can be emitted by wood stoves, pellet stoves and outdoor hydronic heaters that are used as alternatives to burning expensive fuel oil. Breathing the tiny particles measuring 2.5 micrometers or less is a health threat to the young, the elderly and the weakened. Fine particulate has been linked to heart attacks, decreased lung function and premature death in people with heart or lung disease.

Air problems in Fairbanks start with geography.

Temperatures every winter reach 40 to 50 below zero. Fairbanks and nearby North Pole are partially surrounded by hills that create a bowl effect. In a meteorological phenomenon known as an inversion, cold air along the ground can be capped by a layer of warmer air, trapping emissions.

The borough cannot alter any voter-approved ballot initiatives for two years. The last initiative passed in 2012.

The efforts have been largely spearheaded by state Rep. Tammie Wilson, a North Pole Republican, and borough Assembly member Michael Dukes, a radio talk show host.

The state should shoulder the responsibility of cleaning up the borough’s air through regulation, Wilson said.

“This keeps it very separate about with the powers are,” she said.

Opponents of the current and earlier initiatives have said local control can be more flexible and responsive to public health issues stemming from air pollution.

In 2009, borough voters approved a measure that signaled they favored local administration of an air quality program. Since then, public opinion on the home heating issue has sided the other way.

The first initiative passed in 2010 by a 20 percent margin, but that margin has since shrunk. Before the 2012 election, the Fairbanks North Star Borough presented what members believed were moderate regulations, but those were repealed with the vote.

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, https://www.newsminer.com

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