To conserve, improve, and protect Alaska's natural resources and environment and control air pollution, in order to enhance the health, safety, and welfare of the people of the state and their overall economic and social well being.
- Protect air quality.
- Timely issue air quality permits.
- Conduct air quality assessments and identify air pollution concerns.
- Minimize pollution from stationary sources.
|Mission Results||Core Services|
|A: Result - Protect air quality.|
|A1: Core Service - Protect air quality.|
Target #1: No days when air is unhealthy for sensitive groups.
Analysis of results and challenges: Data for calendar year 2019 will be available in the early months of 2020.
The Department of Environmental Conservation has been collecting ambient air data in the most populated communities around the state for over 25 years. Air monitoring ensures compliance with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards designed to protect public health. The EPA sets health-based standards for particulate matter and gaseous pollutants. In the state, the primary pollutants of concern are particulate matter and carbon monoxide (CO). Violations of the standards occur when the concentration of air pollution particulates rise above the defined limit as a result of natural events and/or emissions from man-made sources. Natural sources of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution include smoke from wild fires, while coarse particulate matter (PM10) pollution includes ash from volcanic eruption or windblown dust from gravel bars. Man-made PM2.5 pollution is often the byproduct of combustion processes, including home heating emissions such as from wood stoves, and diesel and gas vehicle emissions. Man-made PM10 pollution in Alaska is frequently produced by road dust from gravel roads and road sanding materials.
The chart above shows the number of days the air quality was deemed unhealthy for sensitive groups, including children, the elderly, and people with lung or heart diseases. The increased numbers in 2012 and beyond is due to the installation of the North Pole monitoring site. In 2018, all but three exceedances were man-made. The three naturally caused exceedances were due to a high wind event in the Mat-Su Valley and to interior Alaska wildfire smoke (FNSB). 31 of the 33 events were recorded in the Fairbanks North Star Borough, two exceedances were recorded in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley at the Butte and Palmer sites. Since 2000, no violations of the CO standards have been recorded.
The State is currently working with the Fairbanks North Star and the Matanuska Susitna Boroughs to evaluate the extent of the pollution problem and to tailor strategies aimed at eliminating the fine-particulate problem. More information about DEC’s air monitoring projects throughout the state can be found at http://www.dec.alaska.gov/air/.
|A2: Core Service - Timely issue air quality permits.|
Target #2: All stationary source air quality operating permits are current.
Analysis of results and challenges: Stationary source permits are issued for fixed-site producers of air pollution such as power plants or other facilities using industrial combustion processes. Large stationary sources require air quality operating permits with the necessary conditions to demonstrate compliance with all applicable air quality regulations under Title V of the federal Clean Air Act and Alaska Air Quality Control Program. Current permits ensure that stationary sources understand their obligations to comply with applicable air quality regulations. Permits are issued for a five-year duration. If an applicant submits a timely renewal application (submitted within 180 days of the expiration date), but the department is not able to issue the renewal permit by the stated expiration date, the existing permit is automatically extended by statute. These administratively extended permits allow for continued operation of stationary sources and they are considered to be “in compliance.” Under such administratively extended permits, the sources must still comply with recently issued federal and state air quality rules, even though the original permit does not include them. Administratively extended permits are always more than five years old and therefore not included in the count of active permits that are less than five years old.
For FY2019, 69% or 86 of the 125 stationary sources possess a current permit. This is a decrease in the number of active permits compared to FY2018, which is likely due to an uptick in borderline sources moving off TV-permits to owner-requested limits and other permit avoidance methods. Air quality modified the count methodology in FY2014 and has continued to use that new methodology into the current year. 14 operating permit renewals are currently ready to be issued but remain delayed (bottlenecked) by an EPA veto that affects a number of similar facilities. The EPA objected to how a permit characterized a long-term federal emission limit; however, the permittees insisted that they could not comply with a permit drafted to meet the EPA objection. We removed these 14 permits from the total number of sources considered for this performance measure because they are backlogged as a result of an external issue that is outside program control and does not reflect program performance. The division continues to work to resolve the issue with the permittees and EPA. The measure remains comparable to previous years, since those years had no permits vetoed by EPA.
|A3: Core Service - Conduct air quality assessments and identify air pollution concerns.|
Target #1: All air quality samplers audited under the State\'s oversight pass the State\'s quality control audits.
Analysis of results and challenges: Data for calendar year 2019 will be available in the early months of 2020.
The Department is responsible for monitoring the quality of ambient air throughout the state. The Air Monitoring program performs this function by directly operating air quality monitors and analyzing measurements of air pollutants, or by providing oversight to local governments that operate their own sampling sites. The program operates year-round air quality monitors in several of the most populated areas of the state, including Anchorage, Fairbanks/North Pole, Juneau, and the Matanuska-Susitna Valley.
Air monitoring is conducted to ensure compliance with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards which were established under the Clean Air Act to protect public health. In order to ensure that all data collected meets EPA’s quality assurance standards, the air quality assurance officer conducts independent audits on all monitors under the State purview; at a minimum all particulate matter monitors are audited twice per year, and all gaseous analyzers once per year. While there is no set requirement, the Department strives to maintain a rate of greater than 95% successful audits. This independent assessment is intended to amplify quality assurance and verify the accuracy of the collected data. The chart shows the percentage of audited monitors that pass all audit requirements for the calendar years 2021 through 2018. Corrective actions are taken expeditiously for each monitor that does not pass the rigorous audit requirements. There are many reasons why instrumentation might fail an audit, ranging from equipment malfunctions to extreme climate conditions, operator errors, and combinations of several causes. Nearly all monitors in the network passed all audits in 2018.
Target #2: All advisories are issued within six hours of receiving notification of impaired air quality.
Analysis of results and challenges: The Division of Air Quality issues air quality advisories to affected regions in the state whenever air quality might be impaired. These advisories may be issued for natural pollution events, like impacts from wildfires, volcanic eruptions, and dusty high-winds. Advisories are also issued when air quality is unclean due to man-made pollution. Where available, the division uses air monitoring data or visibility information from the National Weather Service to assess and predict the level of pollution to the impacted areas.
The division works cooperatively with local community air programs in the City and Borough of Juneau, the Municipality of Anchorage, the Fairbanks North Star Borough, and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, to assist them with issuing air quality advisories. For all other areas of the State outside of those municipal jurisdictions, division staff are fully responsible for issuing advisories if air quality degrades or has the potential to degrade to levels that might be unhealthy for sensitive groups.
Air quality advisories are posted to the department’s web page and electronically disseminated to the media, schools, and hospitals, as well as to interested individuals via email and Twitter. The department maintains an online service that allows agencies and individuals to sign up to receive notification of air quality advisories. Interested individuals can check for air advisories at: http://dec.alaska.gov/Applications/Air/airtoolsweb/Advisories
Issuing timely air advisories is critical to providing citizens the greatest ability to take measures to protect themselves from exposures to unhealthy air. Division staff base advisories on our monitoring data and/or information provided by local communities, the Alaska Fire Service, Alaska Volcano Observatory or other agencies. If information cannot be verified in time or staff are unavailable to issue the advisories, delays can occur. The chart shows the percentage of air quality advisories that were issued within six hours of receiving notification of a potential air quality impairment for FY2012 through FY2019. In FY2019 the division became the issuing authority for the Fairbanks North Star Borough’s inversion induced winter time air quality impacts, issuing 47 advisories, as well as 15 advisories for summer time wild fire smoke impacts. Alaska experienced a very active fire season due to the relatively dry spring, a semi-permanent high pressure system anchoring itself over the region, and the close proximity of large fires to population centers.
|A4: Core Service - Minimize pollution from stationary sources.|
Target #1: All facilities requiring air quality permits are known to be in compliance.
Air Quality Permit Compliance
Analysis of results and challenges: Air Quality permits are issued for fixed-site producers of air pollution such as power plants, refineries, and oil and gas production facilities, among a variety of other sources of air pollution. The state and federal compliance assurance agreement requires periodic compliance evaluations of all major stationary sources and certain minor stationary sources. The data shown above includes all Alaskan operating sources that require an air quality permit. Ideally, the department would know the compliance status of all permitted sources at any given time. Sources with a known compliance status (in compliance, addressed cases, out of compliance, or under investigation) have increased overall from 59% to 83% of these sources between FY2010 and FY2019.
Of the 542 facilities, 446 are in compliance. The thirty nine “unknown status” sources consist of sources of air pollution that are newly established or permitted within the past five years, and for which the department has yet to conduct an initial compliance evaluation. Until the department conducts an initial inspection, a source has an “unknown” compliance status. Newer sources generally have initial evaluations that have been scheduled but not yet conducted. Knowing a facility’s proper compliance status means staff can work with the facilities to fix noncompliance issues by giving guidance on how to better follow its air quality control requirements or by requiring corrective actions. The number of facilities’ with “unknown status” had a marginal increase but can be attributed to a recent uptick in newly permitted facilities.
Current as of December 13, 2019