The high in Fairbanks, Alaska was 14 degrees today, as this article is written. Tonight, temperatures will dip far below zero. It is snowing and there’s a winter storm warning in place that will bring 4 to 7 more inches of snow blowing in at 35 to 50 mph. Residents are advised to take precautionary measures, which for most will include making sure there is enough wood in the house to keep warm.

The average low temperature in Fairbanks in December is 13 degrees below zero in December; in January, it’s colder than that.

On the coldest days, the high temperature averages minus 2 degrees and a reading of minus 60 degrees is possible.

Most Alaskans, even in the cities use wood to warm their homes during winter – and sometimes even into what the “lower 48” refer to as summer.

It’s simply a fact of life in a state where heating oil is expensive and natural gas in unavailable.

But now, in its infinite wisdom, the federal Environmental Protection Agency – headquartered in far away Washington, D.C., has decreed that Alaskans in cities like Fairbanks, will be in “serious noncompliance” of the Clean Air Act if they continue… keeping themselves warm.

Both state and local authorities have been searching for ways to address the problem of small-particle pollution caused by wood-burning stoves, even going so far as to suggest fining residents who burn wood in their homes for heating purposes.

In a climate so close to the North Pole with much of the state lying within the Arctic Circle, Alaska takes cold weather and keeping warm seriously, and replacing wood-burning stoves to meet EPA standards that are more appropriate to address pollution issues in Los Angeles than Fairbanks is not easy.

One Fairbanks newspaper put the problem in stark terms of two “unpalatable alternatives: More stringent restrictions on home heating devices that could impact residents’ ability to heat their homes affordably, or choosing to stand pat and accept a host of costly economic sanctions and health effects to residents.”

In the typical bureaucrat-speak of the federal government, the EPA official overseeing the Alaskan region protests that he “was definitely not trying to take away anyone’s wood stove, or make life more expensive,” adding that it is the EPA’s job to enforce standards set by the Clean Air Act.

In other words, the federal government knows best and if that means the people of Fairbanks are cold, well… that’s their problem.

 
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