Fairbanks voters reject home heating fines for wood smoke

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Wednesday, October 6, 2010:

Anyone worried about getting slapped with a home-heating fine can sleep a little easier.

Voters on Tuesday blocked the ability of Fairbanks North Star Borough managers to rely partly on fines as they implement a new pollution-prevention program.

Questions remain, however, over whether the ballot measure will clear state laws and exactly how the result — 60 percent of voters approved the measure — will take shape at the assembly’s desk.

Studies suggest Fairbanks’ chronic air pollution is due largely to older or less-efficient wood-fed home heating systems. The pollution-control program, approved narrowly by the Borough Assembly this summer, includes carrots and sticks: Incentives, including tax breaks, for trading up to more efficient systems and potential fines for the worst polluters.

Tuesday’s measure, born as a public initiative, directs local government to drop the second avenue, leaving incentives and public education plans in place. It does not, however, directly change local laws, leaving Mayor Luke Hopkins and the nine-member assembly the task of applying the mandate.