The Environmental Protection Agency has gone after Alaskans for burning wood to, you know, stay alive in the frigid temperatures. As these Alaskans in the frigid interior run their wood stoves, the EPA claimed that they need to upgrade so as to be in compliance with the Clean Air Act, or potentially lose federal funding with local fines possibly coming down the pike as well.
The Federalist reported:
Like most people in Alaska, the residents of those frozen cities are burning wood to keep themselves warm this winter. Smoke from wood-burning stoves increases small-particle pollution, which settles in low-lying areas and can be breathed in. The EPA thinks this is a big problem. Eight years ago, the agency ruled that wide swaths of the most densely populated parts of the region were in “non-attainment” of federal air quality standards.
That prompted state and local authorities to look for ways to cut down on pollution from wood-burning stoves, including the possibility of fining residents who burn wood. After all, a declaration of noncompliance from the EPA would have enormous economic implications for the region, like the loss of federal transportation funding.
The problem is, there’s no replacement for wood-burning stoves in Alaska’s interior. Heating oil is too expensive for a lot of people, and natural gas isn’t available. So they’ve got to burn something. The average low temperature in Fairbanks in December is 13 degrees below zero. In January, it’s 17 below. During the coldest days of winter, the high temperature averages -2 degrees, and it can get as cold as -60. This is not a place where you play games with the cold. If you don’t keep the fire lit, you die. For people of modest means, and especially for the poor, that means you burn wood in a stove—and you keep that fire lit around the clock.
Tim Hamlin, the director of the office of air and waste at the E.P.A.’s Region 10 (which includes Alaska), said according to The New York Times: “It’s all one thing — when you most need the heat is when you’re most apt to create a serious air pollution problem for yourself and the people in your community.”
As the Times noted, that particulate pollution from wood-burning stoves isn’t widespread, but rather “block by block or street by street.”
While it’s probably not great to breathe in, as the Federalist noted, it’s a downside of living in a frigid area — especially when you don’t have much money.
Fear not, though; not only is the government going to overreach and tell people how to live their lives, they’re going to work with you to get there.
“We don’t want to be telling people what to do, but the standard is what it is, and we want to work with you to be able to get there,” Hamlin said.
The Times reported that there may be financial assistance for the government overreach:
“Both sides are digging in their heels,” said the borough’s [Fairbanks North Star] mayor, Karl Kassel, who has been calling residents to chat about their heating systems and to urge them to upgrade, with financial help from the borough, to more efficient wood stoves. “We have been setting ourselves up for a crescendo.”
Oh good, taxpayer funds to “help” people that may not necessarily want the “help.”
“People up here tend to be more independent,” Lance Roberts, a member of the Borough Assembly, explained. “They came up here to get away from the regulatory environment that’s down in the lower 48, so they definitely see the E.P.A. as coming after wood stoves and trying to cut out that kind of independent lifestyle where you can live off the grid.”
Apparently there’s nowhere to go to get away from government overreach — not even the frigid interior of Alaska …