Breathe or freeze?

Hey, Scott Pruitt, you want to take this on?

[N]ow comes the federal government to tell the inhabitants of Alaska’s interior that, really, they should not be building fires to keep themselves warm during the winter. The New York Times reports the Environmental Protection Agency could soon declare the Alaskan cities of Fairbanks and North Pole, which have a combined population of about 100,000, in “serious” noncompliance of the Clean Air Act early next year.

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.

Alternatives? What alternatives? There is no natural gas to speak of, and heating oil costs even more up there than it does in frosty New England.

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.

Nonsense. The poor must die, so that the well-off can breathe slightly easier. Ask Chuck Darwin.

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2 comments »

  1. Brett »

    31 December 2016 · 9:21 pm

    Yes. Between this, last year’s Animas River spill and the EPA’s use of its very own SWAT team, I find myself unsympathetic to pleas that Pruitt step lightly.

  2. John Salmon »

    1 January 2017 · 10:11 pm

    Right now it’s “warm” in Fairbanks: 4 (above). Down to neg 23 Friday. And yes, there is an air quality alert. That’s the bureaucratic mindset-absolute sticklers for regs/laws that cause impotent average people problems, not so much for ones that would inconvenience the powerful https://darksky.net/forecast/64.829,-147.6699/us12/en

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